European Tourism Outlook Remains Strong But Staffing Challenges Threaten Recovery

Credit: IGA

Europe is expected to recover 70% of pre-pandemic travel demand in 2022 but uncertainty brought about by worsening inflation, the war in Ukraine and staff shortages is clouding the outlook, according to a report published by the European Travel Commission (ETC).

The study added that long-haul travel into Europe continues to lag significantly behind the short- and medium-haul recovery—and this trend is likely to continue in part because of the increasing cost of living due to energy and food price hikes.

“We are witnessing a much faster rebound than travel businesses in Europe had been expecting, and staff shortages may prove to be an obstacle to a complete recovery,” ETC president Luís Araújo said.

“Bringing back talent, and making careers in the sector more enticing, is the top priority for European tourism recovery in the months to come.

“It is also crucial that the EU continues to monitor the impact of inflation on the cost of living–Europe must do everything within its power to ensure that travel does not become inaccessible for the average European.”

ETC said that for 2022 to date, Bulgaria (-8%), Serbia (-10%) and Turkey (-14%) saw the strongest rebounds in tourist arrivals. At the other end of the spectrum, Latvia’s geographical proximity to Russia is slowing the country’s tourism recovery from the pandemic (-63%) following mass hotel booking cancellations. Slovakia and the Czech Republic are also among the Eastern European destinations exceeding the 50% decline.

However, the ETC and World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has warned that Europe’s travel and tourism sector recovery could be put at serious risk if almost 1.2 million jobs remain unfilled across the EU.

WTTC president and CEO Julia Simpson said: “Europe showed one of the strongest recoveries in 2021, ahead of the global average. However, current shortages of labour could delay this trend and put additional pressure on an already embattled sector.

“Governments and the private sector need to come together to provide the best opportunities for people looking for the great career opportunities that the travel sector offers.”

Air transport and accommodation segments are likely to suffer one in five unfilled vacancies, representing 21% and 22% of staff shortages respectively.

David Casey

David Casey is Editor in Chief of Routes, the global route development community's trusted source for news and information.