Tourism in southern Europe, including Greece, Portugal, France, Italy and Spain has made a remarkable comeback in the post-pandemic period, according to an ING Group analysis citing Eurostat data.

As the Dutch-based multinational banking and financial services corporation estimates, the number of overnight stays is set to surpass the pre-Covid period for the first time with Portugal expecting a record for 2023 (excluding the last 3 months of the previous year).

In addition to Portugal, Greece’s tourism sector has been growing steadily faster over the last decade, as the number of tourist overnight stays increased by 63% (2013-2023), in sharp contrast with other Southern European countries. Spain, Italy, and France recorded increases of 24%, 13%, and 11%, respectively, since 2013.

From January to October in 2023, the total number of overnight stays reached 1.46 billion in the countries, surpassing pre-pandemic levels. The increase is attributed to a significant 11% rise in the number of overnight stays by foreign visitors, although stays by domestic tourists remained stable compared to the previous year.

However, according to ING’s analysis, Portugal stood out among the southern European countries in terms of overnight stays, as the percentage has increased by 67% since 2013, remarkably surpassing the GDP growth.

The report explains that the contributing factors for this surge in Portugal were the relatively inexpensive life compared to other tourist destinations, its pleasant weather throughout the year, and benefits from shorter flight durations from North and South America, contributing to a significant influx of visitors from the USA, Canada, and Brazil.

Thanks in part to the ongoing recovery of tourism, the GDP growth in Southern Europe exceeded the Eurozone average in 2023. Additionally, the revitalization of the tourism sector contributed to job creation in these countries.

However, the influx of tourists posed challenges for many hotels in Southern Europe, struggling to adequately staff their facilities before the official start of the tourist season. This shortage was exacerbated by individuals who had left the industry during the pandemic and had since found employment in other sectors.

In the analysis, ING also notes the absence of Russian tourists and a significant reduction in Chinese visitors compared to 2019.