(CN) — Tourism is slowly returning to the European Union following the lockdowns and travel restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to numbers released Monday by the bloc's statistical office.
In 2021, according to the Eurostat estimate, travelers spent a combined 1.8 billion nights at accommodations across the EU’s 27 member states, from hotels to campgrounds. Those nights represent a 27% increase in overnight stays from the year before.
Most of the travelers are European themselves, however, with the industry still seeing a slow recovery of tourists from outside the EU booking trips into the region.
According to an analysis from the office, the numbers show that the region is slowly turning the corner on the novel respiratory virus that ground the global economy to a halt some two years earlier. Overall, the amount of travel across the EU is still muted: 2021’s numbers still represent a 37% decline from where the numbers stood in 2019.
Across Europe, millions of workers rely on the jobs in the tourism industry, catering to millions more who climb the Eiffel Tower in Paris, feast on paella in Barcelona or commune with the gods at the Acropolis of Athens.
In 2021, three countries sitting along the Mediterranean Sea all saw the biggest increases of travel to their shores. Overnight accommodations in Croatia, Greece and Spain rose more than 70% last year.
On the other end of the spectrum, however, Austria, Latvia and Slovakia witnessed drops in tourist travel from 2020 compared with 2021. Eurostat’s data does not include the number of nights travelers in 2021 stayed in Cyprus, France and Ireland.
During a period from July to October of last year, the number of domestic travelers returned to normal in the EU, even surpassing their numbers seen in 2019. At the same time, the number of domestic travelers increased in Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, the Netherlands, Malta and Slovenia that year.
As 2021 wound to a close, however, the number of European travelers moving about in their own countries did not quite reach number seen before the pandemic. Of the 389 million nights travelers spent in Europe in the fourth quarter of 2021, Eurostat said 248 million of those nights were spent by domestic travelers, only a 6.6% decline from what their numbers were at the end of 2019.
At a time when many sought to stall the spread of Covid-19 by eschewing indoor gatherings, outdoor accommodations in the form of recreational vehicle parks, campgrounds and the like, appeared to weather the pandemic the best.
While hotels (the most popular way travelers overnight in the EU) saw a 44.9% drop in the number of nights travelers spent at their facilities in 2021 compared to 2019, campgrounds saw only a 12.5% drop.
Indeed, September, October and November 2021 saw more people staying in EU campgrounds than in 2019.
The increases in tourism comes as the European Union has seen an increase of its gross domestic product and inflation driven by rising energy prices.
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