Tourism nights booked online in the EU up by 34 per cent in 2021

Europe: The latest data released by Eurostat, the statistical agency of the European Union, has revealed that the number of nights in short-term rental accommodation booked via Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia Group or TripAdvisor in the EU rose by 34 per cent in 2021 to 364 million nights.

Although it marked a recovery compared to 2020, the number is still 29 per cent below the 512 million nights that were recorded in 2019, the year before the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Eurostat.

The data on short stay accommodation offered via Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia Group and TripAdvisor is the result of a landmark data-sharing partnership between the European Commission and the four private collaborative economy platforms signed in March 2020. Eurostat released its first key data on the European short-term rental sector in July last year.

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[Credit: Eurostat]

The second wave of the pandemic in late 2020 had a severe impact on booking numbers in early 2021, with 59.7 per cent fewer nights spent in January 2021 than in January 2019.

Last summer, due to an easing of travel restrictions, the number of nights spent in short stay accommodation recovered significantly and was very close to pre-pandemic levels. In the peak months of July and August, 73.7 and 88.4 million nights were spent in short stay accommodation, representing 85.9 per cent and 91.2 per cent of the record values for those same months in 2019.

Bookings remained high in the autumn and winter and were close to pre-pandemic levels until the end of the year.

It means that the growth of around 90 million guest nights from 2020 to 2021 can be attributed to the second half of the year.

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[Credit: Eurostat]
Large cities and Mediterranean destinations struggled the most

When analysing the recovery of platform tourism at the regional and city level, it becomes clear that not all regions rebounded equally.

Coastal regions along the Mediterranean Sea, capital city regions, as well as alpine winter destinations, were the furthest away from their 2019 levels.

The regions with at least one million guest nights in 2019 that were furthest away from their 2019 levels were Prague in Czechia [-81.9 per cent], Eastern and Midland in Ireland [-76.2 per cent], Budapest in Hungary [-72.9 per cent], Vienna in Austria [-66.3 per cent] and Lazio in Italy [-64.8 per cent]. All of them are capital city regions.

In addition, the coastal region of Catalonia in Spain, the third most popular region in 2019 with over 20 million guest nights, remained far behind the number of nights booked in 2019 [-48.5 per cent to 10.7 million].

On the other hand, several regions in countries such as France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Poland and Romania managed to surpass their 2019 guest nights spent, while many others were close. The regions with the best performance since 2019, with at least one million guest nights in 2019, were all rural regions in France.

Looking at select capital city destinations, many of them still had less than 50 per cent of their 2019 guest nights in 2021, with Prague [18.1 per cent], Budapest [27.1 per cent] and Rome in Italy [30.5 per cent] struggling the most.

The only cities which managed to attract more visitors in 2021 than in 2019 were smaller. Among those with at least 100,000 guest nights in 2019, the best performing cities were Orléans in France [+55.3 per cent], Ostend in Belgium [+49.6 per cent] and Lugano in Switzerland [+49.1 per cent].

The European Commission is in the middle of consulting on regulating the short-term rental market across the bloc, with the option of a single set of pan-European rules being considered.

A public consultation period on short-term rental accommodation services closed in December.