European travel is projected to recover 70% of pre-Covid demand this year but industry staff shortages, flight cancellations and higher prices remain as obstacles.
The forecast by the European Travel Commission (ETC) came despite uncertainty over worsening inflation, prolonged Ukraine war disruption and rising rates of Covid-19 which continue to “endanger” the tourism outlook across Europe.
While travel sentiment in Europe remains strong, the savings base accrued during the pandemic – which was expected to bolster growth – has been eroded by the increasing cost of living due to energy and food price hikes.
Moreover, the steep acceleration in fuel prices also directly increases the price of travel, or more specifically transport.
For consumers, the price hike will likely shift preferences to lower cost options such as staycations, or more affordable forms of transport to nearby countries.
As a result, short- and medium-haul travel is expected to continue driving European tourism recovery.
But the ongoing lag in labour supply is creating staff shortages across the European travel and tourism sector.
Many European destinations may struggle to handle the high demand this summer, ETC warned.
“The primary reasons cited for these shortages are the restricted pool of available workers, long lead times on security clearance and the sector being viewed as an unstable employment opportunity post-Covid,” WTC said.
“Although staff shortages in hospitality are acute, presently a shortage of workers in the aviation sector is dominating headlines.
“Roughly 190,000 European aviation workers were laid off during the pandemic.
“Despite airlines and airports reacting with recruitment drives, it is unlikely the industry will be able to respond within this peak summer season.
“The impact of this shortage is already being felt – over the first weekend of June, the Netherlands saw cancellation rates of up to 11% and up to 4% in the UK.
“Airports are cutting back the number of flights to mitigate the travel chaos that is expected to continue into the summer months as several air carriers announce strikes and cancel flights over labour shortages.”
However, the organisation predicts that the willingness to travel this summer will prevail with recovery in full swing going into the peak summer season.
Bulgaria, Serbia and Turkey have seen the strongest rebounds in tourist arrivals alongside Monaco, Croatia, Iceland and Slovenia.
At the other end of the spectrum, Latvia’s geographical proximity to Russia is slowing the country’s tourism recovery from the pandemic following mass hotel booking cancellations.
Slovakia and the Czech Republic are among eastern European destinations exceeding a 50% decline.
ETC president Luís Araujo said: “Covid-19 restrictions have been rolled back, and people are eager to make up for two years of lost travel opportunities.
“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.
“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.”