Paris Calling – Weak Euro Helps Boost Europe Visits. (ITB Feature)
By Mihret Yohannes ~ Exclusive reports from ITB
Friday, 13th March 2015

For years, the strong euro has put off some travelers, not anymore, say travel experts, these days, the weak euro has been a boon to the European hospitality industry; 

The euro, which recently dropped to an 11-year low against the U.S. dollar, helped draw 413 million people last year to the continent to stroll the Champs Élysées, bask under the Greek sun and visit other popular spots, according to the ITB World Travel Trends Report conducted by IPK International. That was a 4.2 percent increase compared to 2013.

"The weak euro helps certain markets, for example the United Kingdom and United States market,” said Sofia Vaimakis, sales director at Chandris Hotels & Resorts, a chain of four and five-star hotels in Greece, at the ITB Berlin Convention.

“For UK and US travellers, Greece is not an expensive market. More tourists are coming from non-euro countries.”

The ITB report backed up Vaimakis. It forecast growth of 3 percent in the European tourism market this year, with strong inbound traffic from North America.

“The US outbound market is still very solid and is expected to continue growing in the next few years, as is Canada,” said European Travel Commission researcher Valeria Croce in the report.

Social media and the sharing economy is boosting North American travel as the so-called millennial generation of travelers aged 13 to 33 are using the Internet to book rooms and plot their vacations and business trips.

“They have confidence in technology and trust social media which they see as an enabler of positive travel experiences rather than an interruption,” said Suzanne Cook, president of Suzanne Cook Consulting, in the report.

Cook added that wealthier older Americans were also eager to travel while the U.S. dollar remains strong compared to the euro, magnifying their purchasing power still more. “Among affluent Americans…travel is a high priority and there is a favorable outlook for this consumer segment,” Cook said.

Visits to Southern Europe and Northern Europe each grew by 7 percent in 2014, were the two fastest-growing regions for tourism on the continent, the ITB report found. Greece, Spain, Turkey, Germany and the UK were the leaders in those regions.

Western Europe saw slower growth but, at 3 percent, it was still healthy.

“European growth is still well above the long-term growth trend,” said John Kester, director of the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s Tourism Market Trends Programme, in the report. “Many countries are doing well and it’s fairly across the board.”

China, India and the United Arab Emirates have especially been fueling that increase, the report said, reflecting the growing wealth of those countries.

Three European cities were among the top urban destinations in the world. Paris was the world’s top metropolitan destination, with 18.8 million. London was third, with 16.1 million. And Barcelona, Spain was the fifth most popular city, with 12.4 million. New York, Bangkok and Singapore were the second, fourth and sixth most popular cities, respectively.

Some European destinations didn’t see stellar growth, however. A drop-off in Russian visitors to Eastern Europe â€" largely due to the weak euro â€" caused overall tourism in that region to sag by 1 percent.

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