Tourism offers much to the EU gets a little

Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the EC in charge of Industry and Entrepreneurship, travelled to Athens, where he attended the conference organised by the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE). (EC Audio Visual Services).

Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the EC in charge of Industry and Entrepreneurship, travelled to Athens, where he attended the conference organised by the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE). (EC Audio Visual Services).

The summer giant of European tourism woke up again from its winter hibernation and is about to favour the crisis and unemployment stricken southern regions of the Old Continent and not only. For a brief period of one week or so the entire population of countries in the misty and grey north travel southwards to the sun. At the same time they help revive the sleepy during the winter months sea-side resort towns and villages in the Mediterranean coasts. In this way the sun thirsty northerners create millions of jobs in the recession stricken regions of Spain, Italy, Greece, Cyprus and south France but also in mega tourist destinations like Paris, London, Rome and Berlin.

Offers much gets a little

There is no doubt that the European tourist sector is a major industry for the Union, producing large parts of the GDP in many countries and offering millions of jobs. Unfortunately the EU budget spends almost nothing for the sectors’ development, while other sectors of economic activity of great interest to Germany or France attract billions every year from the Brussels’ spending. This is another indication that the EU is gradually developing an ideology of empire, where the peripheral countries are of secondary interest in relation to the central regions (see Elias Lacon’s story “Is the EU’s enlargement over-stretched?”).

In the south, tourism remains the heavy industry of Greece, Spain, Portugal south France and Italy. Almost one sixth of the Greek GDP comes from tourism, while in Cyprus this percentage is close to one-third. Entire regions and millions of jobs depend completely on tourism. It’s not only hotels and taverns that profit from this business. Agricultural production and other local petty industries make a living during the five month summer tourist period from May to September.

On top of that private investments in tourism offer good employment opportunities all year round in countries and regions favoured by the preferences of European holiday makers. Apart from the sun and sea holidays, the industry has developed a whole array of subsectors like religious, health and education tourist activities.

One billion trips

According to the Eurostat, every year EU citizens make around one billion holiday trips. In 2011, the most recent reference year for which complete data is available, residents of the European Union made 1.04 billion holiday trips and spent 5.7 billion nights during those trips. Tourist expenditure amounted to EUR 338 billion. It is even more interesting to note that around 80% of those nights and money spent by EU citizens during their holidays are realised either within their home country or in another EU member state.

In this way the demand by EU citizens for holidays is feeding almost exclusively the internal offer. The huge EU tourist industry however attracts also millions of visitors from around the world. The groups of tourists from Asia taking pictures, is a standard view in the south of Europe but also in prime destinations like Paris.

Trips, Nights, Expenditure EU27 ( 2011)

graph tourismThe internal wave of holiday makers remains though the prime force behind the European tourist industry. According to Eurostat, “More than 3 out of 4 trips were domestic trips (in 2011) – i.e. trips in the tourist’s own country – but in terms of nights spent and expenditure, domestic trips accounted for 60 % and 46 % of the total respectively. For most EU countries, the domestic market was dominant; only for the Benelux countries and Slovenia this was not the case. In the case of Belgium and Luxembourg, more tourists spent their holidays in France – the number one foreign destination – than in their own country”.

Coming to the preference of the EU holiday makers on the average 23.7% of all trips were made in a foreign country: 17.2 % in another EU Member State, 6.5 % outside the Union. Spain was for EU residents the number 1 foreign destination, in terms of number of trips as well as number of nights spent or expenditure. 3 % of all trips made by Europeans were spent in Spain (or 13 % of all trips abroad), followed by Italy and France.

Eurostat notes that “Neighbouring or nearby country was the preferred foreign destination for holiday trips of nearly all the European tourists (in 2011). However, this was not the case for tourists from Romania (Italy), Sweden (Greece) and the UK (Spain). In terms of duration and expenditure, the proximity of the destination became less dominant: further away destinations – also outside Europe – took a bigger share”.

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