We learned last week that European tourism had a banner year with international arrivals projected to have grown more than 8 percent in 2017 despite terrorism incidents and economic shocks.

And this week we are finding out that non-European visitors and alternative accommodations played a leading role in the growth, according to the European Commission.

Some 671 million international travelers visited European destinations in 2017, leading to 3.2 billion overnight stays (up 5.1 percent year-over-year) in hotels and alternative accommodations. Data show the number of nights spent at hotels, at alternative accommodations like Airbnb, and at campsites increased by 4.9 percent, 4.7 percent, and 6.9 percent, respectively.

Interestingly, growth in overnight stays in alternative accommodations was stronger than hotels in many of Europe’s most iconic destinations. Spain, which by all accounts eclipsed the United States to become the second most visited country last year, saw hotel overnight stays grow 2.7 percent compared to alternative accommodations, which grew 5.6 percent. France, the world’s most-visited country, had 4.9 percent growth in hotel stays versus 5.4 percent for alternative accommodations, for instance.

Similarly, Portugal’s short-term rentals stays grew by nearly 30 percent, while Croatia’s grew by 14.6 percent. In Northern Europe, Latvia had 32.7 percent growth in short-term rental stays, the most of any other European Union country.

European hotels, overall, were still more popular than alternative accommodations but their growth rates weren’t as robust in many scenarios (see chart below). Iceland had the most growth in hotel stays (10.3 percent), and Skift has reported on Iceland’s overtourism challenge and what’s being done to curtail it. In Western Europe, hotels remained the top choice for visitors to the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, which had two of the highest hotel growth rates for Europe (8.8 and 8.6 percent, respectively).

But it’s clear that in some popular Western European countries on the top of many travelers’ bucket lists, hotels are losing market share to competitors.

Skift recently talked to tour operators like Contiki that said tours in Eastern Europe and other non-traditional destinations are seeing the most growth in their business and becoming more popular, in line with this data and what many other tour operators and travel companies are seeing. Southern, Eastern Europe, and Northern Europe had some of the highest growth in overnight stays: Croatia, Slovenia, and Latvia all grew more than 10 percent while Portugal, the Czech Republic, and Cyprus all increased their stays more than 7 percent.

The growth of Airbnb in Europe, for example, also shouldn’t come as a surprise as Paris is the company’s largest market and Airbnb has indicated that it’s interested in buying Wyndham’s European vacation rental business and has made several investments in Europe during the past year.

The European Commission said that since 2009, non-European Union visitors have been driving the growth in overnight stays and that trend was particularly evident last year. Non-European arrivals grew by 6.9 percent while European arrivals notched a 3.5 percent jump.

Non-Europeans accounted for 3.8 million more nights stayed (up 4.2 percent) in 2017 versus 2016, and Europeans travelers spent 1.4 million more nights (up 1.5 percent).

Non-European travelers had stronger growth for both hotels and alternative accommodations last year in many countries, and that could be indicative of a weaker Euro making a European vacation more attractive for U.S. travelers. But the Euro has climbed back up in recent months, and 2018 could be an entirely different story.

The European Commission’s data only accounts for overnight stays through October 2017; full-year data is expected later this year. Still, it’s becoming apparent that European tourism has not only rebounded during the past two years but has emerged with significant shifts in destination popularly, and where many travelers choose to stay, such as a city center apartment or seaside vacation rental.

These trends will continue to challenge norms of the European travel industry across the continent.

Hotel Vs. Alternative Accommodations Stays Growth in 2017

CountryPercent Change in Hotel Stays 2017/2016Percent change in Alternative Accommodations 2017/2016
Belgium9.20%0.50%
Bulgaria2.90%6.30%
Czech Republic9.20%2.50%
Denmark2.90%2.90%
Germany2.90%2.40%
Greece4.30%6.80%
Spain2.70%5.60%
France4.90%5.40%
Croatia5.40%14.60%
Italy5.60%-0.10%
Cyprus7.30%N/A
Latvia8.20%33%
Netherlands8.80%4.50%
Austria1.30%4.90%
Poland5.70%4.30%
Portugal7.40%29.30%
Slovenia9.30%11.40%
Finland5%10.70%
Sweden4.30%0.90%
United Kingdom8.60%N/A
Iceland10.30%8.30%
Macedonia13%-3.60%
Serbia12.40%8.00%

 

Source: European Commission

Photo Credit: Croatia had among the highest growth rates in overnight stays in the European Union in 2017. Pictured are tourists in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Dalibor Tomic / Flickr