Europe expects solid tourism growth in 2017

Iceland shows strong tourism growth in new report. (photo courtesy of Thinkstock)

From Travel Pulse

After posting modest tourism growth in 2016, early signs show positive growth for 2017.

A new European Travel Commission (ETC) report shows that Europe welcomed 615 million international tourists during 2016 while the outlook for continued growth this year is “upbeat” despite safety concerns, Brexit and policy changes from the U.S. government.

The European Tourism – Trends & Prospects showed that one in two destinations showed double-digit growth during the first few months of 2017.

Iceland had the biggest bounce in terms of visitor numbers. The country received 54 percent more visitors this year over the same time last year. The report suggests this is due to an increase in the number of trans-Atlantic flights bringing visitors to the country. Iceland also has a unique ability to go viral, which could also be driving visitor demand.

Other regions have battled seasonality to successfully drive up tourism numbers during winter months, including Cyprus with arrivals up 26 percent, Portugal (25 percent) and Malta (23 percent). Additional nations to see growth during the early months of this year include Bulgaria, Finland, Estonia and Switzerland.

Turkey is still struggling to turn its tourism industry around after a downturn that began in 2015. Numbers were down 8 percent, according to the report.

Many of these nations are buoyed by both intra-Europe travel growth as well as a rebound in arrivals from Russian visitors. In Iceland, Russian visitors increased by 157 percent, while in Cyprus, visitor numbers from Russian tourists increased 122 percent. Turkey also saw a boost from Russia, with visitors increasing by 88 percent.

READ MORE: Avoid These Mistakes on Your First Trip to Europe 

A U.S. State Department warning doesn’t seem to be deterring many U.S. travelers from heading to Europe. Despite concerns over safety, U.S. visitation also increased in 2016, while a strong U.S. dollar and growing economy are seen as positive signs for European appeal.

The number of travelers from China, due to an earlier-than-usual Chinese New Year, also gave the EU an added boost.

The ETC remains optimistic and hopes that further cooperation within the EU will encourage more growth.

“At times of dwindling market share and increased competition, European leaders must cooperate to collectively formulate appropriate policies and actions aimed at fostering Europe’s image as a tourism destination,” said Eduardo Santander, Executive Director of ETC.

For Americans looking to travel to Europe, there’s additional good news. The European Union and the U.S. resolved their visas reciprocity issues (for now), so U.S. travelers will not need to start obtaining visas for European travel this summer.



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