Greece led the way in tourism recovery this summer but overall the European Travel Commission (ETC) does not expect travel in Europe to recover pre-pandemic 2019 levels until 2024.
According to the ETC’s “European Tourism Trends & Prospects” quarterly report, despite a strong summer rebound, international tourist arrivals to Europe are forecast to be 60 percent below 2019 by the end of 2021.
At the same time, European tourist arrivals were still down 77 percent half-way into the year compared to 2019.
Summer helped European air passenger gain ground in June (-69 percent), July (-57 percent) and August (-49 percent) compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Opening first to travelers, Greece marked the strongest rebound in overnight stays down by only 19 percent over 2019, but international arrivals were still weak.
The strongest performance in arrivals was recorded in Croatia (-37 percent), which was able to extend the season welcoming 1.9 million tourist arrivals in September.
“It is clear to see the critical role vaccination programs have already played in helping travel rebound. However, vaccination efforts won’t be enough. As the winter months approach, it is imperative that Europe strives to further restore the freedom of movement by implementing more holistic and coherent approaches for travel within and outside the EU,” said ETC President Luís Araújo.
The report found that European destinations marked a stronger-than-expected summer season owing in large part to successful vaccination programs. Intra-regional travel is set to account for 85 percent of European international arrivals in 2021, up from 77 percent in 2019.
The report goes on to add that all reporting European destinations recorded higher levels of hotel occupancy this summer compared to 2020, based on data for July-September with some destinations reporting occupancy rates close to 70 percent, such as Slovenia, the UK, Monaco and Turkey.
Although European travel has made positive strides in 2021, there is still a long road ahead, the report said.
Chinese holidaymakers were also absent in Europe, with all destinations posting declines over 90 percent compared to 2019.
Factors weighing on Europe’s tourism recovery include developments and measures on the Covid-19 front, renewed outbreaks, and confusion over Covid-19 travel policies.
The ETC findings echo a Euromonitor report presented at the WTM London tourism trade show earlier this month which said that tourism recovery would be long and tedious with global tourism spending to take a minimum of six years to return to pre-pandemic levels.