Travel to Europe in 2023: What’s new?
Europe is the world’s largest travel hub, with some of the busiest airports and most visited attractions on the planet.
With most travel restrictions completely lifted, Europe is looking to get back to pre-pandemic traveler figures, completely resetting the industry and breaking new boundaries.
Here are the latest developments on the tourism front in Europe for 2023:
Release of ETIAS
Europe has long been a border-free travel destination, with close to 60 countries allowed visa-free entry into the Schengen zone and beyond.
From November 2023, however, there will be a slight change to entry logistics for those who have previously enjoyed visa-free entry for up to 90 days.
The European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) is a new security measure implemented by Europe to secure basic information from passengers before they enter the region.
Tourism numbers on the rise in the EU
The UN World Tourism Organization has estimated that Europe (along with the Middle East) is on the fast track to recovery and is expected to surpass pre-pandemic figures.
The figures from 2022 show that global tourism has recovered to around 63% of the levels from 2019, but it is double that of 2021.
Europe, on the other hand, has seen an above-average recovery, with almost 80% of its tourism sector recovering.
The UNWTO also explained that the average spend per tourist was higher than before due to inflation costs and longer stays.
Flight tracking platform, Hopper, released its Consumer Index Report for 2023’s first quarter and found that 56% of its searches by US customers were aimed at international travel, and of that, 34% were for European cities.
The surge in visitors from the western hemisphere and Australia is making up for the slow recovery of the Chinese market, the main source market for many European destinations.
Marriott International CEO Anthony Capuano explained that China’s delayed reopening is a speedbump in the global recovery.
“We look at Greater China, the zero Covid policy has continued to dampen the recovery in a meaningful way,” he said at the World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit.
The good news is, the UNWTO predicts a positive year for tourism and said in a statement that “[they] anticipate a strong year for the sector even in the face of diverse challenges including the economic situation and continued geopolitical uncertainty.”
European Travel Commission trend report
The European Travel Commission released its “European Tourism: Trends & Prospects” report, which also indicates continued growth for the sector in 2023.
Luís Araújo, ETC’s President, said: “As European short-haul travel is well on its way to recovery, the tourism industry’s attention has now turned to long-haul arrivals. In welcome news, we can expect the long-awaited return of Asia Pacific visitors in the coming months.”
The report found that Luxembourg, Serbia, Greece, and Portugal were the countries fastest approaching 2019 levels, while Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Romania were the slowest to recover.
This was most likely due to the lack of Russian visitors and travelers’ aversion to Eastern European destinations due to the ongoing war in Ukraine.
As the industry navigates the many challenges it faces this year, it is vital that the sector continues to be receptive to consumer demand, improving the visitor experience at destination and targeting markets and segments less affected by economic slowdown,” Araújo added.
Potential price hikes in Europe
Traditionally, off-season prices have been low, making travel accessible to those on a budget, but new trends show a surge in prices year-round due to inflation, fuel costs, and demand.
“In an already high-demand market, where demand is set to continue building year to year, constrained supply will continue to put intense pressure on consumer travel prices,” Hopper explained in its report.
Huw Owen, the co-founder of TravelLocal, spoke to CNN Travel and explained that Europe is about to see a shift in its tourism dynamic, which might be a much-needed change to combat overcrowding at certain times of the year.
“If you’ve got a supply-demand issue and a peak season, which Europe still does, it’s going to push people either geographically to the periphery or by season to the periphery,” he explained.
The Consumer Price Inflation Report from the UK in December 2022 showed an astronomical 44% rise in airfare for the year, the largest hike since the 1980s.
Travel and aviation analyst Sally Gethin explained that it is mainly because of rising fuel costs “because of increased long-haul journey times to avoid Russian and Ukrainian airspace, as well as a global shortage in spare parts and engines.”
Zurab Pololikashvili, the UNWTO’s Secretary General, explained in a release what the outlook for 2023 might be despite the rising cost of travel.
“Economic factors may influence how people travel in 2023, and UNWTO expects demand for domestic and regional travel to remain strong and help drive the sector’s wider recovery,” he said.