Skift Take

This confirms U.S. travelers want something different when exploring Europe, and increasingly they're venturing to countries not known as tourism hotbeds. It's also noteworthy Chinese travelers follow this trend too, since they're still a relatively immature market looking to check off Europe's famous sites.

Travelers the world over have fantasies of experiencing the vistas from the London Eye or Paris’s Eiffel Tower, and make these cities the most visited in the world.

This year, however, it’s unsung destinations in Eastern and Central Europe gaining strong tourism momentum in Europe.

But the big guys are still in charge. A recent European Travel Commission report found Spain, Turkey and Greece saw the strongest growth on the continent overall for international arrivals this year.

Larger destinations such as Spain and Germany are also the ones seeing the largest increases in number of visitor nights, at 12% and 5% increases year-over-year respectively. A majority of European destinations report slower growth this year with visitor nights, representing travelers’ plans to take shorter trips.

Not Quiet on the Eastern Front

Breaking down visitation by countries producing the most outbound travel tells a different story, one that sees growth coming from new players. For U.S. visitors to Europe, Iceland experienced the highest year-over-year percent increase, up 30% from 2013. Romania, Lithuania and Croatia all follow Iceland with increases at or above 20% year-over-year.

Eastern and Central European countries account for eight of the twenty European countries that saw percent increases in American visitors year-over-year. European travel accounts for 26.8% of American outbound travel, and is expected to be about the same by the end of this decade.

European tourism anchors such as Spain didn’t see as many American visitors this year, falling about 10% from last year, though Spain did see about a 5% increase in U.S. visitor nights this year.

Looking at Chinese travelers, Greece, Romania and Estonia all saw the largest percent changes with Chinese visitors year-over-year, each rising 50%. For these three countries, their rise in visitation also doesn’t translate to a boost for number of Chinese visitor nights. Instead, Serbia, Spain and Croatia take the top spots, the former two jumping about 50% and Croatia increasing about 40% year-over-year.

Chinese travelers may travel more widely and more often today, but Europe only accounts for 13% of outbound Chinese travel, and is projected to see little change over the next decade.

Europe accounts for 37.2% of Brazil’s outbound travel, and is projected to dip to 31.6% by 2019. Even with the expected decrease, Brazil will be one of Europe’s strongest visitor markets, backing up signs of a Brazilian economy continuing to travel more beyond its borders.

See the full report below for more analysis.

Visits From U.S. to Select European Destinations

Country % Increase from 2013
Iceland 28%
Romania 25%
Lithuania 20%
Croatia 19%
Estonia 19%
Greece 17%
Poland 17%
Montenegro 16%
Bulgaria 15%

Source: European Travel Commission

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Tags: eastern europe, iceland, tourism

Photo credit: Iceland is quickly becoming a hotspot for U.S. visitors to Europe. Moyan Brenn / Flickr

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