Europeans will travel but play safe in 2016


Europeans will keep travelling abroad in 2016 but could favour safer destinations amid continuing conflicts and attacks around the world, according to tourism experts.

However, it is too early to assess the potential impact of the current refugee crisis on outbound travel. These were some of the results of the 23rd World Travel Monitor Forum in Pisa, Italy.

In 2015 the number of outbound trips made by Europeans increased by about 4.5 per cent over the first eight months, according to preliminary World Travel Monitor results from IPK International. This once again represented good growth following a rise of 3 per cent in 2014 and similar low single-digit growth rates in the last few years. Overall, European outbound travel grew by 13 per cent from 2009 to 2014, reaching a total of 444 million outbound trips last year.

However, demand for different destinations fluctuated strongly in the year, with some countries in southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East suffering in particular. Dr Martin Buck, Messe Berlin’s senior vice president, comments: 'Many destinations have faced problems, keeping travellers away, sometime in droves. European tourists are choosing safer destinations, and in some cases they are even shifting from international trips to holidays within their country.'

One result was stronger demand for destinations within Europe. For example, the number of international arrivals in Europe grew by 5 per cent between January and August 2015 compared to an overall 2.4 per cent rise in 2014 and ahead of the expected 3-4 per cent growth for the year, according to UNWTO figures. Indeed, about 85 per cent of international trips made by Europeans are to destinations within Europe, according to World Travel Monitor figures.

Looking to 2016, IPK predicted a 2.8 per cent rise in European outbound travel, based on IPK’s European Travel Confidence Index which measures travel intentions for the next year. According to the index, 70 per cent of Europeans are looking ahead positively and want to travel at least as much in 2016 as this year.

Confidence is highest in the UK and Spain (both +6 per cent), Poland (+4 per cent) and Germany (+3 per cent), indicating good growth ahead for those source markets next year. In contrast, French consumers are only slightly more optimistic about their travel intentions for 2016, while confidence is lower in Russia and Italy (both -2 per cent).

Tourism experts discussed intensively at the Pisa forum whether the current flood of refugees would impact on European travel demand, and what it might mean for European destinations. 'The refugee crisis hasn’t yet started to influence travel behaviour and we will still have to wait and see,' says Rolf Freitag, IPK International president.

However, one example could serve as a warning for the travel industry. 'Munich’s world-famous Oktoberfest had 400,000 fewer visitors this year and tourism receipts were about €60 million ($ 66.91 million) lower because the event coincided with the peak of refugee arrivals in the city,' he points out. According to Munich city council, the total number of visitors dropped to 5.9 million this year from 6.3 million in 2014.

At the forum in Pisa, initiated at the invitation of consultancy IPK International and supported by ITB Berlin, more than 50 tourism experts and academics from around the world presented the latest figures and current trends in international tourism.

Additional results of IPK International’s trend surveys from January to August 2015 together with the estimates of 50 tourism experts from more than 20 countries and the key data from the World Travel Monitor are published exclusively by ITB Berlin.

The World Travel Monitor final results for the year, including the latest outlook for 2016, will be presented at the ITB Convention by Rolf Freitag, president of IPK International. The World Travel Monitor is based on representative interviews with more than 500,000 people a year in more than 60 travel markets worldwide, and has been regularly conducted for more than 20 years. It is recognised as the largest continuous study into global travel patterns.