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Survey on the Attitudes of Europeans Towards Tourism. Analytical Report


This Flash Eurobarometer survey (Flash Eurobarometer 258 on the “Survey on the attitudes of Europeans towards tourism”) was conducted at the request of Directorate General Enterprise and Industry to collect citizens' ‟...views, details of holidays and travel in 2007 and 2008 and their plans regarding holidays in 2009".

The report includes the average results for the EU and highlights variances in responses based on the interviewees' country of residence, their socio-demographic background and fundamental attitudes towards holidays and travel. It also examined how EU citizens chose a holiday destination.

This analytical is therefore more than the title suggests, as it goes beyond simply recording 'attitudes' by including respondents' self-reported tourism activities in the the two years prior to the survey. It also addresses questions about searching habits when looking for travel information and deciding on future destinations.

A special emphasis was put on the financial aspect of taking a holiday, as this is becoming the prime concern for travellers as well as for the tourism industry in the midst of a serious economic downturn affecting all economies of the EU.

The fieldwork was conducted from 14 to 18 February, 2009. Over 27,000 randomly selected citizens aged 15 and over were interviewed in the 27 EU Member States. The sample size varied within Member States, ranging from 2000 in the largest to about 500 in the smallest countries.

Interviews were predominantly carried out by telephone.

Little Clarity About Access Issues

Since the survey did not ask direct questions about factors concerning the accessibility of destinations, attractions or accommodation, there is little information which informs the reader about the holiday-taking of visitors who are, for example, disabled or having long-term health problems. Demographics used in the survey include the category of "older people". This group is typically:

  • more likely to choose destinations in their home country
  • more likely to read travel guide books
  • use travel agents for bookings
  • travel for "social reasons"
  • less likely to use the internet to find destinations and offers
  • more likely not to have decided their holiday plans for 2009.      

Broader Travel Trends

Overall, in 2008, two-thirds of EU citizens (67%) made a private trip where they spent at least one night away from home; 58% took a vacation, defined by a stay somewhere away from home for at least four consecutive nights for private reasons.

In the more affluent parts of Europe (e.g. most of the pre-2004 countries), it is normal for more than three-quarters of citizens to take at least one trip per annum; in the rest of the Union (primarily the post-2004 Member States, but including Portugal) – about half of the citizens travel each year.

The most popular holiday destinations of the EU holiday makers in 2008 were Spain, Italy, France and Greece – and these countries dominate the current plans made for 2009.

As to how many people will actually take a vacation in 2009, the picture is not clear. At the time of the survey (February 2009), 28% of EU citizens were undecided about the type of vacation they want to take. Many of those yet to make a decision are probably hesitating as to whether or not they will take a vacation, rather than making a choice about the type of holiday. Unfortunately no earlier data exists that could support any projections about the likely percentage of the undecided groups who will eventually not take a vacation away from home. (For the same reason it is also unknown whether or not the current number of undecided citizens is above the „normal‟ proportion characteristic to this period of the year.)

At the time of the survey, the proportion of those who are certain that they will not travel in 2009 (19%) was below the proportion of non-travellers in 2008 (32%). It remains to be seen what proportion of the currently undecided ones (28%) will eventually take a holiday.

Four in ten Europeans travelled in 2008 and have holiday plans for 2009. However, 17% travelled last year but are still hesitating about a holiday in 2009 – their eventual decision will be critical for the European tourism industry. This segment amounted to a relatively high percentage (of all residents) in some of the largest Member States in terms of tourist “output”.

The survey showed that 23% of Dutch and Italian, 21% of Spanish, 17% of French and 16% of German and British respondents belong to this “vulnerable” tourist category in terms of prospects.

Table of contents
Main findings 
1. Travel profiles of EU citizens in 2008
1.1 Proportion of EU citizens who travelled in 2008
1.2 Short private and holiday trips in 2008
1.3 Travel frequency of short private and holiday trips
1.5 Holiday travel (including short private trips) in 2008 – an overview
2. Reasons for not taking a holiday in 2008
2.1 Main reasons for not having gone on holiday in 2008
3. Characteristics of EU citizens’ main holiday trip in 2008
3.1 The major motivation for going on holiday in 2008
3.2 Destination of holiday trips in 2008 
3.3 Methods of transport used for 2008 holidays 
3.4 Main periods for holiday travel in 2008 
3.5 How EU citizens organised a holiday trip in 2008
4. Financial aspects
4.1 Amount of money spent on holidays in 2008
4.2 Impact of changes in the cost of living on 2008 holiday plans
4.3 How EU citizens would save on their holiday budgets
4.4 Types of holiday trips that would the first to be cancelled if savings were needed
4.5 Types of holiday leisure activities that would be given up first
5. Considerations when planning a holiday and choosing a destination
5.1 Sources of information used when making holiday plans
5.2 Key considerations
5.3 Choosing a destination
5.5 Anticipated benefits of emerging destinations
6. Vacation plans for 2009
6.1 Types of vacation 
6.2 Financial constraints on holidays in 2009
6.3 Planned destinations 
I. Annex tables
II. Survey details
III. Questionnaire

128 pages.

Download the Full Report in PDF format from the right-hand column. (English only).

Download the Commission's Press Release of 20 March 2009 (English French and German).


General Information

Submitted by: Ivor Ambrose
Language(s): EN


Publisher: European Commission
Date published on the web: 20/03/2009


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