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Tourism Numbers and Trends

Tourism in Hungary seemed very quiet, so I did a little a little reading.

The European Travel Commission published a report on the first quarter of 2024. Tourism “In Europe” is up to 2019 levels finally, but the distribution across Europe is not uniform.

The extremes are Serbia is up 71.5% (nights) / 46.9 (arrivals) which I am going to guess because it’s a gateway into Europe for Russians, while Lativa is down 41% (nights) / 33.5% (arrivals), which I suspect also has something to do with Russians. France is only very slightly above breakeven and Austria is slightly below breakeven.

Year-to-date arrivals data shows that trends regarding the spread of travellers across European destinations have continued from 2023 into 2024. Southern European destinations, and especially those known for their relative affordability, have excelled in attracting international visitors in the first months of the year. Serbia (+46.9%), Bulgaria (+38.8%), Türkiye (+35.3%), Malta (+34.8%), Portugal (+16.9%), and Spain (+14.0%), reported the highest growth rates compared to 2019. Meanwhile, the Baltics continued to lag in their recovery, with international arrivals below 2019 levels for Lithuania (-14.0%), Estonia (-15.1%) and Latvia (-33.5%). https://etc-corporate.org/reports/european-tourism-2024-trends-prospects-q1-2024/

Those of you with large bucket lists might use the list in choosing your next destination. Now for the under visited areas based on the assumption that over time things will even out again and the tourists load my drop a bit in places like Portugal and Spain.

Serbia +71.5% (nights)
Turkey
Montenegro
Netherlands
Norway
Portugal
Spain
Sweeden
Denmark
France (barely positive)

0 no change

Austria (barely negative)
Romania
Slovenia
Hungary
Iceland
Slovakia
Finland
Germany
Lithuania
Estonia
Lativa –41% (nights)

What I didnt notice in the article was detail within a country. For instance, it is conceivable that even though France is down, Paris might be up. But the report is long and .....

Posted by
4352 posts

I guess this makes it either a good time or a bad time for my fall trip to the Baltics. I am voting for good, with fewer people.

Posted by
15709 posts

Travel to Iceland is actually down. Icelandair just laid off 82 people because of it.

Posted by
18833 posts

TTM, I think lower levels make for a better holiday, so yes, good for you. Not that Budapest ever had trouble absorbing the tourists, but its still nice as a resident when things are not as crowded.

It will be interesting to see how it plays out and if Europe as a whole actually exceedes pre-pandemic levels in 2024 in any meaninful way. Also be interesting to watch to see if the numbers in the countries begin to shift back to the previous balance.

Posted by
2680 posts

Thanks for starting this one and sharing your source and view.

My research regarding Germany numbers showed that this year until end of Q1 is topping 2022 and 2023 already (source: press release from May 13). Knowing your source compares 2019 but the press release says also that March numbers in Germany from this year broke all-time record from March 2018.

As mentioned in the EU report also special events such as Euro 2024 in Germany and Olympics in Paris will contribute to new records. Maybe such events incl. the Taylor Swift tour lead to special effect of a concentration of travels to certain destinations whereas other destinations do not reach their highs from previous years?

Can it be that people reduce travels to Hungary because of the political situation (political support of Hungary for Russian positions)? A comment from NZZ shows the gap of political positions in Europe very clearly. I apologize to make it a question but this is what I partly read and hear - vacation at Balaton seems not to be cool this year in parts of social media. Are you aware of any sources researching this issue?

Posted by
18833 posts

No, its a fair question. I suspect that politics has something to do with it. But there is a general decline across much of the old Eastern Europe and a number of secondary Western locations as well. So I think this may also have somehting to do with pent up desires to travel and hit the "famous" places before something else happens in the world. But thats purely my speculation.

But as you can see, we are in better shape than half the countries listed. Just on the cusp of being back to 2019.

I thought it was interestin reading in light of there being so many alarmist articles about overtourism this year. In focused places, yes, in general, no worse than 2019.

Posted by
18833 posts

Oh, and one thing that might benefit the tourism here, and I imagine in some of the other old East countries (if it ever got press) is the total and utter lack of violent protest (the government nipped the latest world issue in the bud on day one and its just not a cultural recourse for internal political issues here), or transportation strikes. I know the odds of being in the wrong city someplace in the world on the wrong day are pretty slim, but people do factor that in when planning.

Posted by
18833 posts

I forgot Balaton. There is a guy to TA that isnt impressed, but thats all I have seen. We got a guy on another forum that used to trash the airport here .... although it gets awards every year. So who knows. August 20 is the biggest holiday of the year here. Some friends and I are going to the lake. We had to book the bus (a lot of friends) a few weeks ago because they were booking up). Saw one article that questioned water quality in 10 or 15 years. A few years ago the level was down a bit, but I think that is currently reversed, but could come back with another drought. And I did a quick new search, and found nothing. But if you do, post it.

Posted by
2680 posts

I see both sides of suppressing protests but imo it relates to freedom of speech and expression.

One additional info about overtourism and tourist access fee discussions: As German I do not understand the protests against a day fee for tourists - likely because Germans are used to this. In Germany (and some other countries) all destinations with a value to visitors have a "Kurtaxe", a location partly existing since centuries. I am deliberately linking to the German version of the Wikipedia article which is different to the English one.

The main difference to a hotel tax is that a Kurtaxe is also valid for day guests which do not stay over night in the destination.

Example: Sylt as one of the top locations at the German North Sea takes a Kurtaxe of up to 4 EUR per day - and this is not Venice with 5 EUR. Internationally unknown Heiligenhafen takes 3 EUR in main season per day and adult.

Posted by
1808 posts

Great Report. If people really are interested in this info I would suggest reading the entire report:

Here are some interesting excerpts:

*The US was one of the most important source markets for Europe in 2023. Over 20 reporting destinations saw growth in either arrivals and/or nights by US tourists, whereas just eight continued to see metrics below 2019 levels. Canada was also a net growth market, but to a slightly lesser extent. The results from Australia are noteworthy, especially given the significantly higher airfares tourists were facing for long-haul trips amidst the backdrop of high inflation.

One reason behind the strength of US arrivals was the favourable exchange rate against the Euro for much of 2023, and during earlier travel booking windows. This saw many transatlantic trips prebooked and paid for due to the exchange rates. The UK, France and Italy were the most popular destinations for flights from the US in 2023, ahead of destinations such as Canada and Mexico.

In addition to seasonal macro events (MWC in Barcelona, Champions League Final, summer festivals, etc.), Europe is marked by major one-off events that will drive both demand and supply, including the Paris Olympics, Euro 2024 in Germany, and significant cultural events such as the European leg of Taylor Swift’s Eras tour (short-term rental prices up +222% vs. the average of the year in Warsaw for Taylor Swift’s August 2nd, 2024 date!).

This summer, the world's eyes will turn to Paris for what is billed to be the largest event ever organised across France. Twelve days before the Olympics and Paralympics begin, another major quadrennial European event will conclude - the UEFA European Championship - which will be hosted in ten world-class German stadiums. These events will provide an important opportunity for both host nations, as the events attract tourists from both domestic and overseas markets.

German tourism is anticipated to experience a widespread boost this summer from the UEFA Championship as the nation hosts 51 football matches in 10 different cities, with 24 tournament participants (including Germany)*

In reading some of the chart information the following countries are down on arriving flights from the US. Iceland, Slovenia, Croatia, Slovakia, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Luxenbourg. The number of nights stayed are down in all those countries except Iceland. Apparently, people may be seeing Iceland on their way back to the US.

Again, a very interesting and easy report to read.

Posted by
18833 posts

MarkK, I said, "is the total and utter lack of violent protests" Elections are coming up so there are a few anti government protests at the Parliament every week. They give speeches, express their dissatisfaction, chant and cheer, and go home after a few hours. It's just not a violent culture by and large. Liberals appear as though they will do well in the election ... at least in Budapest.

I certainly have no issue with tourist taxes or fees if that's what the locals choose through their democratic system. It can be an excellent way to improve infrastructure or limit tourism if that's the desire. Was that the issue at Balaton? I have no idea what you were referencing. Most beaches do charge. Sometimes, as much as $6.

Posted by
8655 posts

The majority of tourists in Europe are other Europeans, right? The economy in much of Europe has been closer to recession than here in the US, so maybe fewer European travelers as a result?

re: fees for tourists. If they started calling them "resort fees", Americans would more likely go along with them easier. (smiley emoji)

Posted by
2680 posts

The majority of tourists in Europe are other Europeans, right?

Not in Germany. Domestic travelers stand for nearly 80% of reported overnight stays.

Posted by
2680 posts

I said, "is the total and utter lack of violent protests"

I apologize for wrong understanding.

The Balaton info is based on exchanges via social media. A lot of former East German people liked Balaton but for some reasons it is not "in" currently.

The Baltic states clearly lack from fear of some people that war can start there as well.
We and our Polish and Swedisch neighbors see some activities in and around Baltic Sea - caused by Russians - which are unfriendly, e. g. regular GPS spoofing also up to coasts of Denmark or regular possible violations of extended airspace. Alert rotots take off from Rostock Laage every two to three weeks. Feels minimum like provocations.

Posted by
18833 posts

Before the change East Germans didn't have a lot of money or a lot of choices. New world now. 30 euro will get you to the coast on Wizz. Balaton these days is mostly a Hungarian local day off destination. It does well at that. The only destination at the lake I would recommend a tourist spend precious time on would be Tihany. The beaches, naaa.

Posted by
18833 posts

But the EU report did show Iceland being negative, I just dont remember how much. I suspect if the report and the article are far apart in the numbers then something has changed a bit drastically in the last 60 days..... but just suspect. This year it appears that tourism is like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

Posted by
930 posts

Here's a link to similar stats for the UK if anyone's interested. The UK doesn't seem to have been a member of The European Travel Commission since 2011 for some reason.

visitbritain.org

Posted by
2680 posts

Different comparison years. EU report 2019, article 2023.

btw: Please when posting links always cut behind from the question mark on in the URL - the rest is session waste.

Posted by
18833 posts

Looks like the UK is in the tank too. Its a strange year all around. Your question about politics may still play a role, but something else is going on. There is a general shift to certain locations making them seem crowded, but it is happening at the expense of others because on the whole tourism isnt much different than pre-COVID.

Posted by
930 posts

Different comparison years. EU report 2019, article 2023.
btw: Please when posting links always cut behind from the question mark on in the URL - the rest is session waste.

Eh. I thought it was something to read anyway.

I don't care about stupid urls if I hide them behind hyperlinks. If they ain't broke, don't fix 'em.

Posted by
18833 posts

No, good read. Some have had a hard time believing tourism to "Europe" is not what it looks like if all you saw was Spain and Rome.

Here is something a little amusing. Spain is having an excllent year. But if you walk down the street here and listen to the languages, you would swear all of the Spanish have come to Budapest.

And before someone says it ........ If the room is otherwise quiet and I pay attention, I can tell Spanish from Spain from Latin American Spanish. My life experience makes that possible. But honestly I have only paid attention to 1 in 100 so, yes, they could all be rich Latin Americans ...

Posted by
208 posts

Some have had a hard time believing tourism to "Europe" is not what it looks like if all you saw was Spain and Rome.

I think there is a distinct difference between US/Canadian travel in Europe vs intra-European travel. My feeling is that most of us from North America fly in to a major city and either stay there or radiate out to some lesser degree, but usually to places "outsiders" like us could/would know about.

On the other hand, an Italian might drive or train or fly cheap (to smaller airports), and bypass some or all of what the N.A. folks are seeing & doing. Heck, an Italian tourist might head to a not-too-distant small Italian town at the beach (or mountains or...) and be only surrounded by other Italians. Substitute French, Spanish, German, whatever and get the same results. Technically they're tourists, but tourists in a different sense than the non-European visitors.

In the US, we regularly go to the beach or the mountains for short "vacations". It's likely almost all Americans. The non-American tourists are more likely in the more traditional tourist spots - maybe LA, NYC, Disney, Miami, the National Parks, etc., but they are very unlikely to be camping next to us at a state park by the beach. FTR, our camping spots are packed. As, I guess is Disney, but with a totally different mix of nationalities.

Posted by
797 posts

There is a general shift to certain locations making them seem crowded, but it is happening at the expense of others because on the whole tourism isn't much different than pre-COVID.

Fascinating, thanks again Mr E. It's been my sense that big cities in former Western Europe are more crowded this year than ever (like Rome over NY OMG) but that doesn't tell the whole story. Thank goodness we've been to most of the major capitals several times & actually prefer the smaller, less famous destinations... Weird Sweden saw such growth in tourism, I'm thinking cruise arrivals perhaps, and of course a much more favorable FX rate? Stockholm just wasn't very crowded May 3-5th, except along the piers. HUH. And Uppsala is a gorgeous town 45 min north of ARN airport and I've seen exactly ONE US tour group here. Ever. Anecdotal of course, but I get into downtown a few times a week. Again, avoiding the larger cities might be key to having a more relaxing holiday with cheaper accommodation.

Posted by
6670 posts

Weird Sweden saw such growth in tourism, I'm thinking cruise arrivals
perhaps,

I haven't read it, but if it is a report on the first quarter of 2024 my guess is people coming for winter sports, the northern lights and other winter activities. There aren't that many cruise ships in the winter.

And Uppsala is a gorgeous town 45 min north of ARN airport and I've
seen exactly ONE US tour group here. Ever.

I've seen several, but that is also anecdotal.

Posted by
100 posts

I would venture to say that the Ukraine situation has had an effect on Eastern European tourism, probably unfairly. As for Iceland, it seemed like everyone and their mother was going there about ten years ago, especially with those cheap Icelandair fares. Those cheap airfares are mostly gone these days and it's not surprising that it's declined in popularity somewhat.

It would be interesting to see how the numbers break down by ages. From what I've experienced in Europe these past few years, the stereotypical young American backpacker of the past has mostly been replaced with the older American on a tour bus or cruise ship. That might change what the most popular destinations are.

Posted by
18833 posts

At least in my city there seems to be an uptick in tourism, but won't show up until the 3rd quarter report published in the 4th quarter.

EU elections this and next week. Wonder if that impacts anything?

It would be interesting to see how the numbers break down by ages.
From what I've experienced in Europe these past few years, the
stereotypical young American backpacker of the past has mostly been
replaced with the older American on a tour bus or cruise ship. That
might change what the most popular destinations are.

If you dig enough you can find most of the answers. But you have to be careful as the sites tend to be a bit misleading. Like "Tourism up 37%" but what they leave in the fine print (it at all) is the comparison is against when it dropped 67% during COVID.

For my city i did find that about half of the US tourists are over 45 and they spend 1.5 times more than the average for tourists. But older folks from a developed nation would i suppose would spend more (we get a lot of Romanians, Slovaks, etc). So a comparison to Canadians and Germans and Brits might be in order to have context. And apparently the percentage of the Americans visiting is growing pretty rapidly. But dont put too much emphasis on American tourists because as near as I can tell they only make up 5 to 10% of the tourism in Europe. The sort of shift in locations releis on something greater than American tourism.

Posted by
1808 posts

EU elections this and next week. Wonder if that impacts anything?

Just read an article that the Parliament EU election polls show power has shifted more to the right away from the progressive left.

Some estimates suggest that radical-right parties are on course to finish first in nine countries, including Austria, France, the Netherlands and Belgium, and second or third in another nine, including Spain, Portugal, Sweden and Germany.

Posted by
18833 posts

Threadware, we had an anti Orban protest rally yesterday. If the number present were said to be 20,000 I would not be surprised. It was massive. Nice thing is non-violent, permtted by the government and they all went home afterwards. Budapest is about 20% of the national population and in general does not support Orban.

The thing was sponsored by a new, now second place, opposition party. I wont call them "liberal" but they are anti-Orban, anti-Putin, Pro-EU and and at least by default of being pro-EU and anti-Putin, Pro-Ukraine.

Orban may sitll hold the EU seats after the election but it will be by the skin of his teeth. I hope at worst this is a sign of a change over the next couple of years. Orban himself is safe for 2 more years.

Posted by
2680 posts

EU elections this and next week. Wonder if that impacts anything?

Not for tourists visiting tourist version of "Germany" - Bavaria is still under strict moderately conservative CSU lead. ;-)
In total sister parties CDU and CSU get 30% in Germany.

Extreme right-wing 15.9%, whereof appr. 44% were protest voters against current politics of federal government coalition. Real issues are that more than expected young voters decided for them and that in former Eastern German states they were strongest party in too much voting areas (up to 40%).

I cannot see a different argumented impact on tourism compared to before election situation. Maybe emotionally?

Link to a lot of diagram-based information about EU election in Germany.

Basically in Germany we are looking forward to the real European elections starting next Friday: Euro2024.

Posted by
842 posts

I’ll take this information and use it as a guide to a new sort of shoulder season. Go where and when the hoards are not.

Posted by
18833 posts

Trèemoss2, that was the exact intent. Takes a bit of research, but miĝht be worth the effort if you have a large enough bucket list to pick and choose from or are attracted to the unknown.

Posted by
842 posts

I don’t need further research. Your list is enough. I’ll take it at face value. Have already been to the Baltics, but would go back simply for the fact of less tourists.