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Newsletter on innovation from the European Commission's Enterprise DG




Index July 2004

May 2005




Doing more to attract new custom

    Almost everybody in the developed world is a tourist at one point or another, yet the huge customer base in no way reduces the competition among service providers for their custom. Developing new types of holidays, new facilities and more efficient ways to manage them are some of the many facets of innovation in this most service-oriented of industries. The tourism industry is one of Europe’s leading employers, and for many regions highly dependent on tourists’ spending, innovation is the difference between growth and stagnation.

Doing more to attract new custom

T ourists travel for any number of reasons: for business or for pleasure; to visit friends or relatives or to get away from them; to relax or to get an adrenalin rush; to eat and drink well or to diet and purge; to bathe in the hot sun or to seek cool and shade;… Of all industries, it is clear that tourism is about as far from one-size-fits-all as you can get. Moreover, of all the service industries, the performance of the human faces which come into contact with tourists are perhaps most significant for the experience and satisfaction of customers.

A tourist is anybody who stays away from their home area for one night or more. (Those who spend just one day are known as visitors in the industry jargon.) In Europe, approximately 80% of tourist nights are for leisure purposes and the remaining 20% on business trips.

The tourist industry is one of the world’s biggest, and Europe is the leading player. In 2004, figures from the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) show that there were a total of 760 million international tourist arrivals worldwide, predominantly in the northern hemisphere’s summer season. Of these, 414 million, or almost 55%, were in Europe (all European countries, including the 25 EU Member States), including both tourists travelling between European countries and tourists travelling from outside Europe. Although absolute numbers of tourist arrivals in Europe increased by around 4% in 2004 from the previous year, Europe’s overall share of the world market declined by around three percentage points.

The top 10 EU regions for tourism, in terms of nights spent in hotels and other collective accommodation in 2003.

Rank Region Nights spent Share in % of EU-25
1 Este (ES) 152,422 7.3
2 Nord Est (IT) 139,784 6.7
3 Canarias (ES) 83,764 4.0
4 Centro (IT) 79,702 3.8
5 Bayern (DE) 66,236 3.2
6 Méditerranée (FR) 64,203 3.1
7 Westösterreich (AT) 61,120 2.9
8 Île-de-France (FR) 58,085 2.8
9 Nord Ovest (IT) 52,728 2.5
10 Sur (ES) 51,856 2.5

Within the EU, Eurostat figures (for 2003) show that a total of 2.09 billion nights were spent in hotels and other types of holiday accommodation. Of these, 1.2 billion, or 59%, were accounted for by residents of the Member State concerned. Three-quarters of the remaining 856 million nights are spent by residents of other Member States. Unsurprisingly, Germany (23%) and the United Kingdom (19%) account for the biggest shares in the origin of tourists in the intra-Community market. The third biggest share for incoming tourists is the USA, which accounts for 7% of nights by non-residents in EU Member States.

The proportion of non-residents varies from Member State to Member State. In general, establishments in the southern and/or smaller Member States depend most on non-resident customers, whereas in the central European and Nordic Member States, domestic trade is much more significant.