By Diana Mandia and Dina Kartit
– The number of nights spent in tourist accommodation in the European Union in 2022 approached pre-pandemic levels, the bloc’s statistics office Eurostat said on Wednesday.
The 27-nation bloc recorded 2.72 billion nights spent in tourist accommodation last year, down by only 5.6% from 2019 levels, before COVID-19 inflicted heavy losses on the tourism industry due to border closures and lockdowns.
This number is an increase of 91.1% and 48.3% from 2020 and 2021 levels, respectively. The figures cover short-stay accommodation in hotels and similar establishments, as well as camping grounds, recreational vehicle parks and trailer parks.
“The sector seems to be strongly rebounding from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Eurostat.
Domestic travel saw the strongest recovery, already exceeding pre-pandemic levels by 0.7% to 1.53 billion nights, while international tourism was still 12.6% below at 1.19 billion nights.
Among single EU states, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium saw the biggest increase in both domestic and foreign travellers, exceeding 2019 figures by 12.3%, 3.9%, and 0.5%, respectively, joined by non-EU members Liechtenstein, Iceland, and Norway.
Latvia and Slovakia were among the slowest recovering countries in terms of tourist night numbers in 2022, only recovering to slightly above 70% of 2019 levels.
Looking ahead, the year 2023 “could see international tourism arrivals return to pre-pandemic levels in Europe and the Middle East”, the World Tourism Organization (WTO) said in a statement on Tuesday.
The United Nations-led agency anticipates the recovery to last throughout 2023, with the recent lifting of COVID-19-related travel restrictions in China and robust demand from the United States, supported by a strong U.S. dollar.
The UN WTO cautions, however, that the uncertain economic environment and geopolitical tensions may influence tourism behaviour, with reduced expenses, shorter trips and local travels.