With many travelers surely now in full planning mode for summer 2011, let’s take a look at the winners and losers in the European battle for the tourist’s dollar (or euro).
Greece’s economic misfortunes led to a crash in confidence among the country’s hoteliers, and 2011 is shaping up to be a bargain year for travelers looking for Hellenic sunshine–in much the same way that in 2009 Iceland secured a surge in incoming visitors after its spectacular financial troubles in 2008.
Year-on-year bookings for Greece for spring and summer 2011 are well up compared with this time in 2010, with many analysts commenting that Greece is the accidental beneficiary of the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.
Folks who might otherwise have opted for North African destinations are now heading for Greece instead. And it looks as though there will be no shortage of airlines rushing to take them there, for budget carriers who trimmed their North African routes have spare capacity looking to be redeployed. Ryanair has upped its routes to the four airports it serves in Greece from 13 to 33 for the 2011 season.
Ireland’s tourism sector has had a tough time these past three years, with income from overseas visitors having plunged by a third between 2007 and 2010. But 2011 sees a new note of realism, with hotel prices revised downward. The country looks set to make a good showing in summer 2011.
Estonia had a great year in 2010, attracting record numbers of Finnish and Russian tourists. And visitor numbers for 2011 look set to rise further as the country benefits from having adopted the euro at the start of this year.
The summer airline schedules, which came into effect last Sunday, see Tallinn airport with direct flights from a record 32 destinations. Estonian Air has reintroduced direct flight service to five cities that had previously been dropped from its schedules: Paris, Berlin, Barcelona, Milan and Nice. And flight frequencies to Brussels, London, Moscow and Amsterdam have increased, so it has never been easier to fly to the Estonian capital.
And the black spot for 2011? Well that is Britain. Even a royal wedding couldn’t stem the decline in visitor numbers. High prices, strict border controls and Britain’s refusal to join the Schengen unified visa system all act as major disincentives to visitors. Some commentators are predicting that worse is yet to come as the Olympic factor makes overseas visitors shun the UK in 2012. We shall watch with interest.