From Statistics Explained
- Data from November 2014. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: November 2015.
This article provides information on recent statistics in relation to tourism in the European Union (EU). Tourism plays an important role in the EU because of its economic and employment potential, as well as its social and environmental implications. Tourism statistics are not only used to monitor the EU’s tourism policies but also its regional and sustainable development policies.
- 1 Main statistical findings
- 2 Data sources and availability
- 3 Context
- 4 See also
- 5 Further Eurostat information
- 6 External links
- 7 Notes
Main statistical findings
Tourism — demand and supply
Residents (aged 15 and above) from within the EU-28  made 1.1 billion tourism trips in 2013, for personal or business purposes. Short trips (of one to three nights) accounted for more than half (57.5 %) of the total number of trips made (see Table 1), while three quarters (75.3 %) of all trips made were to domestic destinations, with the remainder abroad.
In some EU Member States, over half of the total number of tourism trips made in 2013 were to destinations abroad; this was the case for Luxembourg, Belgium, Malta and Slovenia (as well as Switzerland). However, less than 10 % of the trips taken by residents of Romania, Spain, Greece (data are for 2012) and Portugal were abroad. These figures appear to be influenced by both the size of the Member States and their geographical location (smaller and more northerly countries tended to report a higher propensity for their residents to travel abroad).
It is estimated that some 60.9 % of the EU-28’s population aged 15 or over took part in tourism for personal purposes in 2012 (aggregate for 2013 not yet available), in other words they made at least one tourist trip for personal purposes during the year. Again, large differences can be observed between the EU Member States, as this participation rate ranged from 22.2 % in Bulgaria to 88.5 % in Finland.
From the supply perspective, it is estimated that there were nearly 562 thousand tourist accommodation establishments active within the EU-28 in 2013 and that together they provided just over 30 million bed places (see Table 2). Nearly one third (32.3 %) of all the bed places in the EU-28 were concentrated in just two of the EU Member States, namely France (5.0 million bed places) and Italy (4.7 million bed places), followed by Germany, the United Kingdom (data are for 2012) and Spain.
During recent years, the number of nights spent in tourist accommodation establishments has generally shown an upward trend (see Figure 1). However, there was a short-lived downturn in the number of nights spent in tourist accommodation establishments in 2008 and 2009 as a consequence of the financial and economic crisis: the number of tourism nights in the EU-28 fell by 0.6 % in 2008 and by a further 2.1 % in 2009. In 2010, however, the number of nights spent increased by 4.7 % and this positive development continued, with growth of 3.3 % in 2011 and 4.3 % in 2012. In 2013, the number of nights spent in tourist accommodation establishments in the EU-28 reached a peak of 2.6 billion nights, up by 2.2 % compared with 2012.
Tourists travelling abroad
EU-28  residents spent 2.4 billion nights abroad on tourism trips in 2013 (see Table 3). German residents spent 746 million nights on trips outside of Germany in 2013, while residents of the United Kingdom spent 546 million nights abroad (data are for 2012); residents from these two Member States accounted for more than half (54.7 %) of the total number of nights spent abroad by EU-28 residents.
When taking into account a country’s size in terms of its population, Luxembourg was the EU Member State whose residents spent the most nights abroad per inhabitant (an average of 23.8 nights in 2013), followed by Cyprus (19.3, data are for 2012), Ireland (12.6) and the Netherlands (12.1). At the other end of the spectrum, residents of Romania, Greece (data are for 2012) and Bulgaria spent, on average, less than one night abroad in 2013 (see Figure 2).
In 2013, Spain was the most common tourism destination in the EU for non-residents (people coming from abroad), with 252 million nights spent in tourist accommodation establishments, or 21.2 % of the EU-28 total (see Figure 3 and Table 4). Across the EU, the top three most popular destinations for non-residents were Spain, Italy (185 million nights) and France (131 million nights), which together accounted for nearly half (47.7 %) of the total nights spent by non-residents in the EU-28. The least common destinations were Luxembourg, Latvia and Lithuania; the effect of the size of these Member States should be considered when interpreting these values.
The number of nights spent (by residents and non-residents) can be put into perspective by making a comparison with the size of each country in population terms, providing an indicator of tourism intensity. In 2013, using this measure, the Mediterranean destinations of Malta, Cyprus and Croatia, as well as the alpine and city destinations of Austria were the most popular tourist destinations in the EU-28 (see Figure 4); Montenegro (data are for 2012) and Iceland were also popular destinations using this measure of tourism intensity.
Economic aspects of international travel
The economic importance of international tourism can be measured by looking at the ratio of international travel receipts relative to GDP; these data are from balance of payments statistics and include business travel, as well as travel for pleasure. In 2013, the ratio of travel receipts to GDP was highest, among the EU Member States, in Croatia (16.7 %), Malta (14.5 %) and Cyprus (13.2 %), confirming the importance of tourism to these countries (see Table 5). In absolute terms, the highest international travel receipts in 2013 were recorded in Spain (EUR 45.5 billion) and France (EUR 42.2 billion), followed by Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom (all three recording receipts of EUR 31–33 billion).
Germany recorded the highest level of expenditure on international travel, totalling EUR 64.7 billion in 2013, followed by the United Kingdom (EUR 39.6 billion) and France (EUR 31.9 billion). Spain was the EU Member State with the highest level of net receipts from travel in 2013 (EUR 33.3 billion), while Germany recorded the biggest deficit (EUR -33.6 billion).
Data sources and availability
Tourism, in a statistical context, refers to the activity of visitors taking a trip to a destination outside their usual environment, for less than a year. It can be for any main purpose, including business, leisure or other personal reasons other than to be employed by a resident person, household or enterprise in the place visited. Tourism statistics are currently limited to at least one overnight stay; as of reference year 2014, outbound same-day visits will also be covered by official European statistics.
A system of tourism statistics was established in Council Directive 95/57/EC of 23 November 1995 on the collection of statistical information in the field of tourism. This legal basis requires EU Member States to provide a regular set of comparable tourism statistics.
In July 2011, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union adopted a new Regulation 692/2011 concerning European statistics on tourism and repealing Council Directive 95/57/EC; this came into force for reference year 2012.
Tourism statistics in the EU consist of two main components: on the one hand, statistics relating to capacity and occupancy in collective tourist accommodation; on the other, statistics relating to tourism demand. In most EU Member States, the former are collected via surveys filled in by accommodation establishments, while the latter are mainly collected via traveller surveys at border crossings or through household surveys.
Statistics on the capacity of collective tourist accommodation include the number of establishments, the number of bedrooms and the number of bed places. These statistics are available by establishment type or by region and are compiled annually.
Statistics on the occupancy of collective tourist accommodation refer to the number of arrivals (at accommodation establishments) and the number of nights spent by residents and non-residents, separated into establishment type or region; annual and monthly statistical series are available. In addition, statistics on the use of bedrooms and bed places (occupancy rates) are compiled.
Statistics on tourism demand are collected in relation to the number of tourism trips made (and the number of nights spent on those trips), separated by:
- destination country;
- length of stay;
- accommodation type;
- departure month;
- transport mode;
The data are also analysed by the sociodemographic characteristics of the tourist:
- age group;
- educational attainment level;
- household income;
- activity status.
Data from a range of other official sources may be used to study tourism. These statistics include:
- structural business statistics (SBS) and short-term business statistics (STS) which may be used to provide additional information on tourism flows and on the economic performance of certain tourism-related sectors;
- data on employment in the tourism accommodation sector from the labour force survey (LFS), analysed by working time (full / part-time), working status, age, level of education, sex, permanency and seniority of work with the same employer (annual and quarterly data);
- data on personal travel receipts and expenditure from the balance of payments;
- transport statistics (for example, air passenger transport).
According to a United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) publication titled ‘Tourism highlights — 2014 edition’, the EU is a major tourist destination, with five of its Member States among the world’s top 10 destinations in 2013. Tourism 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.
Tourism can play a significant role in the development of European regions. Infrastructure created for tourism purposes contributes to local development, while jobs that are created or maintained can help counteract industrial or rural decline. Sustainable tourism involves the preservation and enhancement of cultural and natural heritage, ranging from the arts to local gastronomy or the preservation of biodiversity.
In 2006, the European Commission adopted a Communication titled ‘A renewed EU tourism policy: towards a stronger partnership for European tourism’ (COM(2006) 134 final). It addressed a range of challenges that will shape tourism in the coming years, including Europe’s ageing population, growing external competition, consumer demand for more specialised tourism, and the need to develop more sustainable and environmentally-friendly tourism practices. It argued that more competitive tourism supply and sustainable destinations would help raise tourist satisfaction and secure Europe’s position as the world’s leading tourist destination. It was followed in October 2007 by another Communication, titled ‘Agenda for a sustainable and competitive European tourism’ (COM(2007) 621 final), which proposed actions in relation to the sustainable management of destinations, the integration of sustainability concerns by businesses, and the awareness of sustainability issues among tourists.
The Lisbon Treaty acknowledged the importance of tourism — outlining a specific competence for the EU in this field and allowing for decisions to be taken by a qualified majority. An article within the Treaty specifies that the EU ‘shall complement the action of the Member States in the tourism sector, in particular by promoting the competitiveness of Union undertakings in that sector’. ‘Europe, the world’s No 1 tourist destination — a new political framework for tourism in Europe’ (COM(2010) 352 final) was adopted by the European Commission in June 2010. This Communication seeks to encourage a coordinated approach for initiatives linked to tourism and defined a new framework for actions to increase the competitiveness of tourism and its capacity for sustainable growth. It proposed a number of European or multinational initiatives — including a consolidation of the socioeconomic knowledge base for tourism — aimed at achieving these objectives.
Further Eurostat information
Methodology / Metadata
- Annual data on trips of EU residents (ESMS metadata file — tour_dem_esms)
- Capacity of tourist accommodation establishments (ESMS metadata file — tour_cap_esms)
- Methodological manual for tourism statistics
- Occupancy of tourist accommodation establishments (ESMS metadata file — tour_occ_esms)
Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)
- Agenda for a sustainable and competitive European tourism (Communication from the European Commission, October 2007)
- see Methodology for tourism statistics and Tourism Satellite Accounts (TSA)
- EU-28 aggregates for the number of trips and the number of nights spent by EU residents were made for the purpose of this publication and do not include data for Poland or Sweden.