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City tourism in Europe recovers faster than expected

European Cities Marketing (ECM), the European association of city tourism boards, is reporting for the first time on the recent developments of tourism demand in its member destinations. Based on a representative sample of European cities, comprising many leading city tourism destinations in Europe, the international network of cities reports that the total number of national and international bednights in 2009 dropped by only 2.6%, while the number of arrivals decreased by 2.8%.

The development of bednights over the year indicates a fast recovery of city tourism in Europe beginning in the second half of 2009. While the first six months of the year were characterised by a continuous decline in bednights, the months from July to December show a steady growth of the city tourism industry reaching 6.6% in the last month of 2009. “European city tourism recovers from the economic crisis faster than other areas. Of course we have to remember that these figures compare the second half of 2009 with the second half of 2008 when tourism had already begun to encounter trouble. However, accommodation prices will still have to rise in order to ensure the continued quality of tourism services in European cities,” says Dieter Hardt-Stremayr, President of European Cities Marketing.

The cities with the most bednights and arrivals in 2009 were London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, and Madrid. In German cities, the overall number of arrivals and bednights increased in 2009. Among the leading European cities, Florence had the highest relative increase in bednights from 2008 with 19.4%, followed by Linz, Berlin, Milan, and Stockholm.

As for individual markets, the German market, the source with the highest number of bednights, decreased by 2.3% in 2009. The Chinese source market continued its growth from 2008 with an increase of 4.7% in bednights. The United Kingdom and Japanese source markets continued their decline in 2009. The UK as a source market of bednight volumes declined by 14.2%, followed by a decline in the Japanese market of 7.9%.

Expectations for tourism demand in European cities in 2010 have improved as a result of the ongoing recovery from the global financial crisis. According to the results of the latest survey of tourism experts from ECM member cities, 79% of experts estimate that total bednights will increase or at least stay at the same level. In addition, experts’ forecasts for domestic, international and the other 6 individual source markets are also positive. The US and the UK source markets, however, are still expected to decrease. On the other hand, estimates for the domestic market are optimistic with 55% of participants believing that overnights from domestic markets will increase.