Last updated: 01:00 PM ET, Wed May 04 2016

Europe Tourism Off to a Good Start in 2016

Destination & Tourism | Janeen Christoff | May 04, 2016

Europe Tourism Off to a Good Start in 2016

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Despite hurdles, according to the European Travel Commission’s (ETC) latest report, European Tourism 2016 – Trends & Prospects, a majority of destinations reported positive results during the first two months of 2016.

Up-and-coming tourism destinations reported the biggest growth. Slovakia, Serbia and Romania all recorded double-digit growth, with Slovakia the highest, up 30 percent.

Major destinations also reported gains. Spain was up 13 percent in January and Febraury – a direct reflection of the country’s efforts to fight seasonality. Austria and Germany were both up 5 percent.

Turkey struggled the most. Its tourism numbers at the beginning of the year, according to the ETC, were down 8 percent.

"Tourism is one of Europe's most important industries and it constitutes a powerful tool to foster economic development and employment growth," said Eduardo Santander, executive director of ETC. "Amid increased competition and unpredictable events, European leaders within the sector are called to jointly co-operate to enhance the visibility of Europe and safeguard its image as an appealing and welcoming tourist destination."

And despite challenges in Turkey and security issues around the region, the outlook remains positive for Europe, provided that long-haul travel markets continue to grow. According to the report, economic indicators of continued growth in these markets are positive and currently account for 5 percent of the tourist arrivals in Europe.

But there are concerns.

READ MORE: Report: EU to Offer Visa-Free Travel to Turkish Citizens

China is one of the regions most important tourism markets. It is the second-largest non-European source market for the region and the country’s slowing economy and the implementation of biometric visas could hamper its outbound travel. Officials have forecast 12 million Chinese visitors will visit Europe in 2016.

Russia’s tourism presence within the EU has been dwindling with more than half of destinations reporting negative figures from Russian visitors from the beginning of the year. Between a weakened economy, falling oil prices and a weakened rouble, the tourism market demand is not expected to grow. The same goes for Brazil which, despite hosting the Olympics, is also struggling with its own financial crisis.

READ MORE: Can Europe Stop Its Frequent Airline Strikes?

Japan is a bright spot. Rising wages in the country has contributed to an increased rate in the long-haul travel market.

While these numbers reflect positive signs for tourism during the first part of the year, the ETC warns that these numbers could change. Positive data from the key long-haul markets should be interpreted with caution as the aftermath of recent terror attacks in Europe have yet to be observed in the coming months.

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