Tourists visiting the European Union reached almost half a billion last year, or 40% of the global tourist market.
The preliminary data comes from a new report monitoring the European market, the European Union Short-Term Tourism Trends, launched by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) yesterday.
The report states that despite the challenges faced by Europe in 2016 “tourism has once again shown extraordinary strength and resilience, reinforcing its contribution to economic growth, job creation and social well-being in the European Union”.
The growth comes despite a number of terrorist attacks across Europe last year including the killing of 86 people in Nice on Bastille Day in France last July.
However, the 28 countries of the EU still showed solid growth in international tourist arrivals of above 4% in 2016, slightly above the world’s average growth rate of 3.9%, and increased by tourist numbers by 21m to 499m.
Last year was the seventh consecutive year of sustained growth for the EU market, following the 2009 global economic and financial crisis, with 107m more tourists than the pre-crisis level of 2008.
The new European Union Short-Term Tourism Trends report forms part of the ‘Enhancing the Understanding of European Tourism’ joint project initiated by the UNWTO and the Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs of the European Commission (COSME).
The project aims to improve the socio-economic knowledge of the tourism sector, enhance the understanding of European tourism and contribute towards economic growth, job creation, thus improving the competitiveness of the sector in Europe.
“Tourism is today one of the key pillars of the EU strategy for jobs and inclusive growth,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.
“The UNWTO is very pleased to be working alongside the European Commission in monitoring international tourism trends, advance product development and sustainable tourism in Europe.”
The project is co-financed with COSME funds and will run until February 2018.