(Reuters) – Tourists in the European Union more than tripled the nights they spent in short-stay accommodation in December compared with a year earlier, the EU’s statistics office said on Monday, though levels remained well below pre-pandemic norms.
The nights spent in EU short-stay tourist accommodation surged 237% to 102.2 million nights in December compared to a year earlier, Eurostat said, though this remained 27% below the 2019 figure.
Easing coronavirus restrictions and widespread vaccination campaigns helped tourism recover from the early summer, though the emergence of the highly contagious Omicron variant and fresh travel curbs slowed progress over the winter.
Over the entire year, nights spent in tourist lodgings were up 27% from 2020, but remained more than a third under pre-pandemic levels.
The southern coastal nations of Greece, Spain and Croatia led the recovery, all up more than 70%, while Austria, Latvia, and Slovakia saw tourism fall still further from pandemic lows.
Alongside Latvia and Slovakia, Eurostat found that Malta and Hungary were the most impacted by the pandemic, which slashed nights spent in tourist lodgings there by more than half.
Domestic guests made up the bulk of overnight stays at 68%, while those from other EU member states made up nearly a quarter.
International travel was slower to recover, with nights from guests outside the bloc down to 8% over the last two years, from 18% before the pandemic hit.
Hotels and similar establishments recorded the highest drops compared to 2019, followed by rented holiday accommodation, while campsites were the least affected.
(Reporting Dina Kartit; Editing by Sarah Morland and Nick Macfie)