Tourism statistics - top holiday destinations
From Statistics Explained
- Data from February 2013. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.
This article takes a closer look at the destinations Europeans chose for their holidays in 2011, with a focus on outbound trips (trips outside the tourist's own country).
Main statistical findings
In 2011, the most recent reference year for which complete data was available at the time of writing, residents of the European Union (EU) made 1.04 billion holiday trips and spent 5.7 billion nights during those trips (see Table 1 and Figure 1). Tourist expenditure amounted to EUR 338 billion.
Less than 1 in 4 trips were spent abroad
More than 3 out of 4 trips were domestic trips – i.e. trips in the tourist's own country – but in terms of nights spent and expenditure, domestic trips accounted for 60 % and 46 % of the total respectively. For most EU countries, the domestic market was dominant; only for the Benelux countries and Slovenia this was not the case (see Tables 2 to 5). In the case of Belgium and Luxembourg, more tourists spent their holidays in France - the number one foreign destination - than in their own country.
Spain was the top foreign destination for EU residents in 2011
On average for the EU, 23.7 % of all holiday trips were made in a foreign country: 17.2 % in another EU Member State, 6.5 % outside the Union (see Figure 1). Spain was for EU residents the number 1 foreign destination, in terms of number of trips as well as number of nights spent or expenditure. 3 % of all trips made by Europeans were spent in Spain (or 13 % of all trips abroad), followed by Italy and France. Spain accounted for 10.8 % of all holiday trips for Irish tourists.
Neighbouring or nearby country was the preferred foreign destination for holiday trips of nearly all the European tourists. However, this was not the case for tourists from Romania (Italy), Sweden (Greece) and the UK (Spain). In terms of duration and expenditure, the proximity of the destination became less dominant: further away destinations - also outside Europe - took a bigger share. At EU-27 level, Asian countries (not including China, Japan and South Korea) and the USA were in the top 5 when looking at nights spent or expenditure.
Tables 2 to 5 present a detailed overview per country, for convenience of presentation split into four geographical zones. In most cases, the choice of destination may be determined by proximity and/or relative attractiveness (e.g. in terms of climate). However, historical migrant flows, former colonial ties or language may also influence the choice of destination, for instance the Maghreb countries for French tourists, Portugal for the Luxembourgish residents (more than 1 in 8 nights abroad) or Latin American destinations for Spanish tourists.
Data sources and availability
Representativeness of the EU-27 estimates
EU-27 estimate made for the purpose of this publication.
EU-27 estimate for the share of expenditure for top outbound destinations is based on 20 Members States' data (no data available for Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Austria and Finland). The 20 Member States included in the estimate represent 91.7 % of the EU-27 population aged 15 years and over.
Symbols ":" data unavailable or unreliable.
The EU is a major tourist destination, with five Member States among the world’s top ten destinations for holidaymakers, according to UNWTO data. Tourism is an important activity in the EU which has the potential to contribute towards employment and economic growth, as well as to development in rural, peripheral or less-developed areas. These characteristics drive the demand for reliable and harmonised statistics within this field, as well as within the wider context of regional policy and sustainable development policy areas.
Further Eurostat information
- Tourism (t_tour), see:
- Tourism (tour), see:
- Number of tourism trips (tour_dem_tt)
- Number of tourism nights (tour_dem_tn)
- Expenditure on tourism trips (tour_dem_ex)
Methodology / Metadata
- Tourism demand: domestic and outbound tourism (excluding day-trips) (ESMS metadata file - tour_dem_esms)
Source data for tables and figures on this page (MS Excel)
- With 2012 as reference year:
- Regulation 692/2011 of 6 July 2011 concerning European statistics on tourism and repealing Council Directive 95/57/EC
- Regulation 1051/2011 of 20 October 2011 implementing Regulation 692/2011 concerning European statistics on tourism, as regards the structure of the quality reports and the transmission of the data
- Previous legal acts (concerning reference periods before 2012):
- Directive 95/57/EC of 23 November 1995 on the collection of statistical information in the field of tourism
- Commission Decision 1999/35/CE of 9 December 1998 on the procedures for implementing Council Directive 95/57/EC on the collection of statistical information in the field of tourism
- Commission Decision 2004/883/CE of 10 December 2004 adjusting the Annex to Council Directive 95/57/EC on the collection of statistical information in the field of tourism as regards country lists
- Directive 2006/110/EC of 20 November 2006 adapting Directives 95/57/EC and 2001/109/EC in the field of statistics, by reason of the accession of Bulgaria and Romania
- Agenda for a sustainable and competitive European tourism (Communication from the European Commission, October 2007)
- European Commission - Enterprise and Industry - Supporting European tourism