European Tourism in 2011 – Trends and Prospects, Q4/2011

The European Travel Commission (ETC) has just published its fourth quarterly report on European Tourism in 2011 – Trends & Prospects.

The following gives a brief overview of the report for the fourth quarter of 2011.

– Travel to European destinations in 2011 has exceeded the prior peak set in 2008.

– Impressively, 22 of 23 reporting countries show international visitor growth in 2011, ranging from 3% in the UK to more than 20% in Latvia and Lithuania. And 24 of 26 countries show gains in hotel occupancy in 2011.

– Total international visits are estimated to have surged 6% last year, while hotel occupancy rates rose 3.2%, indicating that domestic demand lagged behind international demand.

– While the travel recovery has been quite robust, signs of eroding gains began to appear, as expected, in the second half of 2011.

– Data on visitation and nights from TourMIS as well as hotel and airline industry data provide a consistent picture of the pullback on growth in recent months.

– Three forces converged to bring about this late-year trend: reversion to the mean from the ash cloud rebound in the first half of the year; the second half of 2010 was relatively stronger than the first half so comparisons in 2011 were to a higher base; and the Eurozone debt crisis began to affect both consumer and business behaviour.

– The financial crisis in the Eurozone has continued to worsen in recent months. Problems in sovereign debt markets have spread from Greece, Ireland and Portugal to Spain and Italy – posing a much more severe threat of global financial contagion.

– If the Eurozone authorities fail to arrest the alarming slide in financial and business confidence, the consequences would be severe.

In the event of a Eurozone break-up, GDP could initially fall by around 10% in the exiting countries and the attendant financial disruption would plunge much of the world, including the United States, back into recession.