European tourism ‘to fall 61% in 2020’

Vacationers' summer 2020 preference for rural and coastal locations—rather than densely populated cities—is expected to continue.

Total European tourist arrivals could fall by 61% for the full year of 2020, according to a new study from the European Travel Commission (ETC).

For the first eight months of 2020, international tourist arrivals throughout Europe fell by 68% year-on-year, the study showed, with recently heightened restrictions set to undo any recovery seen over the summer.

Cyprus and Montenegro suffered the steepest falls in arrivals at -85% and -84% respectively, according to the study, as they have a high dependence on overseas travelers. Romania (-80%), Turkey (-77%), and Portugal and Serbia (-74%) were also among the worst affected.

At the other end of the scale, Austria saw the lowest fall at -44% thanks to its pre-coronavirus-outbreak winter travel season in the first few months of the year.

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ETC executive director Eduardo Santander said: “As the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic grips Europe and in advance of the winter season, it is now more important than ever that European nations join forces to agree on common solutions, not only to curb the spread of the virus but also to support tourism’s sustainable recovery, restore travelers’ confidence, and most importantly protect the millions of businesses, jobs, and enterprises that are at risk, so they can survive the economic fallout.

“The direction of the economic recovery across Europe will depend significantly on the recovery of the tourism sector, a sector which generates close to 10% of the EU’s GDP and accounts for over 22 million jobs.”

The report also indicated that domestic travel and short-haul trips will rebound most quickly in 2021, with the easing of travel restrictions and lower perceived risks highlighted as key factors in the recovery.

In addition, the ETC expects the summer trend of tourists seeking rural and coastal locations, rather than densely populated urban centers, to continue.

This could see “some popular tourist hotspots that previously struggled to cope with excessive travel demand and will help spread the economic benefits of tourism more evenly within countries,” the report said.