UNWTO sees opportunity for ‘more sustainable and resilient future’ for European tourism sector


The sharp rebound in Europe’s tourism sector is an opportunity to rebuild a “more sustainable and resilient future”, according to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Europe is the world’s largest tourism region with every sign that “it will continue to consolidate its status as the world’s tourism leader”, according to UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili.

Of the estimated 700 million international arrivals recorded worldwide for the first nine months of 2022, some 477 million were welcomed by European destinations, around 68 per cent of the global total.

Europe’s tourism rebound is being driven by strong demand for regional or intra-regional travel.

“At the same time, we have seen a post-pandemic shift in consumer behaviour towards more eco-friendly or sustainable tourism experiences,” Pololikashvili said.

“Young people have become increasingly aware of the impact of their travels and determined to keep their footprints as low as possible.

“The restart of tourism, therefore, presents us with a unique moment to seize opportunity from crisis. In Europe, as in every global region, now is the time to capitalize on such shifts in behaviour and direct our sector on a different path, one that leads to a more sustainable and resilient future.”

The UNTWO said there needed to be a greater push to “speed up and scale our shift to greater sustainability”.

“But we cannot just focus on investing in technology or infrastructure. It’s also essential to invest in tourism’s biggest asset – people,” Pololikashvili said.

“When the pandemic hit and travel came to a halt, many workers left the sector. And not all of them have returned. In recent months we have seen the consequences of this.

“The number of people employed in the air transport sector within the European Union dropped to the lowest level in almost 15 years. As a result, we saw sizeable bottlenecks at airports along with cancelled flights and other services during the peak summer season.

“We need to work together – UNWTO, the European Commission, governments and employers – to make tourism an attractive sector to work in.”