Travel Abroad: Europeans' Wanderlust

how many europeans travel abroad

In 2019, there were over 702 million international tourist arrivals worldwide from Europe, making it the region with the highest number of outbound travellers. Europe is the largest source market for outbound tourism, and in 2019, European travellers made up over half (51%) of global outbound tourism. In 2018, nearly two out of three EU residents made tourism trips, with 33.7% of Europeans travelling outside their country. Germany is the biggest market for outbound European travel, with German travellers taking a total of 99.5 million trips abroad in 2019.


How many Europeans are travelling abroad in 2022

In 2022, Europeans were eager to travel again after the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic. While some chose to stay close to home or book last-minute trips, many saw this year as their first chance to have the summer vacation they had been dreaming of.

According to a survey by N26, 65% of Irish respondents had booked at least one trip in advance, while 31% of all respondents preferred to travel spontaneously and had not booked any trips yet. The French and Italians were the most likely to book on short notice (37% and 36%, respectively), while the Irish were the least likely (25%).

When it comes to international travel, Northern Europeans seem more inclined to leave their home country. Austrians opted for international travel at a rate of 75%, followed closely by Germans at 71%. Belgians topped the list, with an impressive 93% reporting they would vacation outside their country. In contrast, over half of Italians (56%) and nearly half of Spaniards (44%) and French (39%) chose to vacation domestically.

Southern Europe was the top destination for Europeans in 2022, with 27% of respondents choosing it as their summer destination. This may be due in part to roughly half of Spanish and Italian respondents opting for local travel. Northern Europe was the second most popular destination, with 13% of travellers heading there.

Regarding the number of Europeans travelling abroad, specific data for 2022 is limited. However, we can look at previous years for context. In 2019, there were over 702 million international tourist arrivals worldwide from Europe. Europe had the highest number of outbound travellers among all global regions that year. During the pandemic in 2020, Europe saw the smallest drop in outbound tourism visitor growth globally.

As of May 2021, about 51% of European respondents to a survey indicated they intended to travel to another European country in the next six months, while only 10% planned to go outside Europe.


Europe is the largest source market for outbound tourism, with 743.9 million international tourist arrivals from the continent in 2019, accounting for 51% of global outbound tourism. By 2022, the share of international arrivals from Europe had risen to 62% of global outbound tourism, reaching 595 million.


Germany is Europe's largest outbound travel market, with German nationals taking 99.5 million overnight trips in 2019. The country also has the highest expenditure on outbound tourism in Europe, spending 99.5 million euros in 2019. Germans like to travel to a variety of destinations, with Europe being the top choice, followed by Turkey, Egypt, Thailand, and Morocco as the most popular developing destinations.

United Kingdom

The UK is the second-largest outbound tourism market in Europe, with British nationals taking over 93 million outbound trips in 2019. Turkey is the most popular long-haul destination for UK tourists, followed by India. UK tourists are also very sustainability-minded, with 86% stating that sustainability is important to them.


France has the third-highest outbound tourism expenditure in Europe, after Germany and the UK, with French tourists spending 56.7 billion euros overseas in 2019. Outside of Europe, Africa is the most popular continent for French nationals to travel to, with Morocco being the top destination. France is also a very sustainability-minded country, with almost half of French people feeling that sustainably certified accommodations are important.


Italian tourists made 34.7 million outbound trips in 2019. Italy is one of the largest outbound overnight tourism markets in Europe. Egypt, Turkey, and Morocco are the most popular outbound developing destinations. Italians tend to book trips well in advance and value recommendations from friends and family.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands has a strong outbound tourism market, with 22 million outbound trips in 2019, higher than the European average. Turkey is the most popular destination for Dutch tourists, followed by Morocco and Mexico. The Dutch are also very sustainability-minded, with a strong interest in reducing their environmental impact when travelling.


Spain is the fifth-largest outbound tourism market in the EU, with 19.8 million outbound trips in 2019, mostly to European destinations like France, Portugal, and Italy. Before the pandemic, Morocco was the most popular developing country for Spanish tourists, followed by Mexico. Spanish tourists are also among the most sustainability-minded, proactively looking to minimise their impact on destinations.


According to a 2017 survey, the most popular destination for European travellers outside of Europe was the United States, with 11% of respondents having visited. Outside of Europe, Spain was the favourite destination.

  • The Azores Islands, Portugal: This remote archipelago of volcanic islands is often described as the "Hawaii of Europe", with rugged landscapes and deep blue waters.
  • Lofoten Islands, Norway: This certified sustainable destination offers Viking history, unspoiled landscapes, the Northern Lights, and even surfing.
  • Westfjords, Iceland: A less touristy alternative to the Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon, the Westfjords are remote and rugged, with different landscapes than much of Iceland.
  • Sintra, Portugal: A beautiful, historic town nestled in the mountains near Lisbon, Sintra offers lush forests, colourful palaces, and ancient ruins.
  • Santorini, Greece: Beyond the famous blue domes and whitewashed homes, Santorini boasts ancient ruins, volcanic landscapes, and a rich food and drink culture.
  • Faroe Islands: Adventurous travellers will enjoy the rugged natural beauty, amazing hiking trails, mountains, and bird cliffs of this archipelago between Scotland, Norway, and Iceland.
  • Utrecht, Netherlands: Less crowded than Amsterdam, Utrecht offers charming canals, gothic architecture, pretty streets, and a vibrant festival scene.
  • Seville, Spain: This medieval city is filled with Moorish, Catholic, and Jewish landmarks, gothic architecture, and winding streets. Avoid the height of summer, as temperatures can climb above 35°C.
  • Triglav National Park, Slovenia: Protected since 1924, this national park features unspoiled natural beauty, including high mountain peaks and stunning waterfalls.


The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on European travel

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on European travel, disrupting the industry and significantly reducing demand for international travel. The pandemic and the resulting containment measures have severely damaged the global economy, with the tourism sector being particularly hard hit.

Economic Impact

The global economy entered a severe recession in 2020 due to the pandemic, and the tourism industry experienced a unique and dramatic slump in demand. This was a result of stringent restrictions on business and social life, as well as a decline in both output and demand in major tourism source markets. The economic downturn, high unemployment, income losses, and closures of hotels and restaurants led to a freefall in tourism demand.

Travel Restrictions

Many countries imposed quarantines, entry bans, or other travel restrictions to control the spread of the virus. While these measures helped reduce infections, they also had negative economic and social impacts on the travel sector. Some countries with large domestic markets, like the United States, were able to recover faster due to increased domestic travel. However, the overall impact on the tourism industry was significant.

Change in Travel Behaviour

The pandemic also influenced travel behaviour. Slow travel gained popularity, with tourists visiting fewer destinations during their trips. Additionally, there was a decline in business travel and international conferencing, with virtual alternatives becoming more common.

Vaccination Requirements

Tourism venues, such as museums, restaurants, and hotels, often mandated COVID-19 vaccination for staff and visitors, which influenced tourists' preferences and behaviours.

Regional Differences

The impact of the pandemic varied across Europe. Southern Europe emerged as the top destination for Europeans in 2022, with approximately half of Spanish and Italian respondents opting for domestic travel. Northern Europeans, on the other hand, preferred international travel, with high percentages of Austrians, Germans, and Belgians choosing to vacation abroad.

Recovery and Outlook

Global outbound tourism is gradually recovering, reaching 84% of pre-pandemic levels by July 2023. The industry expectation is that tourism will return to 2019 levels by the end of 2024 or 2025. However, challenges remain, including the state of the global economy, the impact of economic developments on travel budgets, and ongoing geopolitical tensions.


How Europeans' travel plans vary by age group

Europeans' travel plans vary depending on their age group. For example, younger participants (aged 18-29) reported higher levels of financial concern when travelling, with 50% of young Spaniards and 47% of Italians in this age group stating that they "always worry" about money before or during vacations. In contrast, only 6% of Austrians in the same age group shared this concern. Interestingly, older Europeans (over 60s) reported lower levels of financial worry when travelling, with low percentages reporting consistent money worries. However, Spaniards and Italians were exceptions, with even older travellers expressing financial concerns.

When it comes to sustainability, younger Europeans seem more inclined to make sustainable choices when travelling. Dutch respondents, particularly those in the younger age groups, showed a strong intention to adopt more environmentally friendly travel behaviours. They expressed interest in choosing alternative forms of transportation, reducing plastic use, and becoming vegetarians to minimise their environmental impact. Similarly, British respondents aged 18-24 demonstrated a high regard for sustainability, with 95% considering it important.

In terms of travel destinations, younger Europeans tend to favour more adventurous and off-the-beaten-path locations. They seek immersive and authentic experiences, such as community-based tourism (CBT) and nature tourism. On the other hand, older travellers may prefer more relaxed and culturally focused trips. For example, older Italians seek guided tours with Italian-speaking guides and value security and high-quality accommodations. They also tend to travel during off-peak seasons to avoid crowds.

Additionally, younger Europeans may be more inclined to book their trips spontaneously, while older travellers are more likely to plan their vacations in advance. This could be due to factors such as having more flexible schedules or a preference for last-minute adventures.

Overall, it is evident that Europeans' travel plans vary across different age groups, with financial concerns, sustainability, destination preferences, and booking habits being some of the key factors that influence their travel decisions.

Frequently asked questions

In 2018, nearly two out of three EU residents made tourism trips, with 33.7% of Europeans travelling outside their home country. In 2019, there were over 702 million international tourist arrivals worldwide from Europe.

In 2019, the most popular destinations for Europeans travelling abroad were Turkey, Egypt, Thailand, and Morocco.

During the height of the pandemic, many European travellers opted for domestic trips instead of travelling abroad. However, as the travel market recovers, Europeans are once again planning outbound vacations, with 51% of respondents in a 2021 survey indicating they intended to travel to another European country in the next six months, and just 10% planning to travel outside of Europe.

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