Europe is at a crossroads in its relationship with tourism. Summer is on the horizon, international travel is back, and people are returning to their favorite destinations. As post-pandemic travel confidence booms, so are concerns about the negative impacts of overtourism.
Overtourism — where too many guests visit too few locations, typically at the same time — is an inherently European challenge. But while images of tourists packed into Las Ramblas and Saint Mark’s Square have sadly become synonymous with summer travel here, there is little consensus on what is driving the overtourism phenomenon, or how best to fix it.
As more guests prepare to head to Europe, the region needs a tourism strategy that embraces dispersal and helps cities combat the over-intensification of tourism in historic hotspots, while spreading the benefits of tourism to places and neighborhoods that have not previously benefitted.
In recent weeks, two reports have been shared that shed new light on the impact of tourism growth in Europe: one report from Booking.com highlights a “boom” in hotel growth and erosion of independent properties; the other from Airbnb highlights how the platform is helping disperse guests and benefits to communities with no hotels.
Combined, these reports provide a comprehensive picture of what’s driving overtourism in Europe — and a potential way forward.
In a new report, Booking.com highlights how Europe is at the beginning of a “chainification” of its hotel industry — starting with France and the U.K. – as the market prominence of chain hotels pushes “relentlessly upwards”, which the report states is coming at the cost of independently owned competitors.
As the debate on how to manage overtourism in Europe continues, Booking.com’s report explains how just four international hotel chains are behind almost half of all new hotel construction projects in Europe. A closer look at these figures shows Europe currently has a construction pipeline of over 1,700 hotels and 260,000 rooms, with a record 524 projects at early planning stage. A stated 49 percent of this construction is driven by Accor, Marriott, IHG and Hilton, with hotel chains generally making up 64 percent of all investments for construction projects.
Alongside this report, new analysis from Airbnb using data from Eurostat — the statistical office of the European Union — demonstrates how Airbnb guests continue to account for a small proportion of overall visitor numbers to Europe’s major cities, compared to guests using hotels and other accommodations. For example in Venice, Airbnb guests account for just 4 percent of visitors to the city; in Amsterdam, just 5 percent of guests stay in Airbnbs.
Globally, listings on Airbnb are more dispersed than ever, and while hotels are concentrated in historic tourist hotspots, Airbnb is bringing dollars and tourism to diverse places not served by traditional hospitality.
A first-ever analysis of Airbnb and OpenStreetMap data in Europe released today shows that across 10 popular European travel destinations, including Amsterdam, Barcelona and London, there were over 3 million guest arrivals in communities with Airbnbs and no hotels last year, helping disperse guests while generating over $710 million in host earnings for local families.
An analysis of the Île-de-France region, France’s most populated region, by Deloitte also found that hotel supply was concentrated in just half of the zip codes while Airbnb hosts offered accommodation in 99 percent of the region.
It’s a trend that’s dispersing guests and benefits, helping visitors discover new destinations they might otherwise have missed, and generating new revenues for families, businesses and communities that haven’t previously benefited from tourism.
In addition to the sustainable travel trends observed on Airbnb, the platform is also investing in tech-driven ‘flexible search’ tools to help disperse guests away from Europe’s most oversaturated tourist hotspots. New analysis also released today shows these tools are working and across Europe’s major cities including Amsterdam, Barcelona, London and Rome. Guests using our search innovations are more likely to stay outside the busiest districts in cities.
Airbnb is committed to partnering with communities and governments to address overtourism challenges, and we will continue to do more. It’s also clear that data is key to diagnosing the problem, before appropriate solutions can be put in place.
To support this work, Airbnb is already backing initiatives across the EU to support a better understanding of the local impact of Airbnb. These include partnering with Eurostat to share data, and partnering with governments to help hosts share their homes, follow the rules and pay tax.
Crucially, Airbnb is also supporting the development of new EU rules that would give member countries better access to data, providing that local rules are clear and simple for everyday hosts to follow. This proposal has the dual benefit of helping inform evidence-based policymaking across the EU, while giving hope to many Europeans who are currently not able to share their homes due to disproportionate local rules, which were often designed with large-scale tourism operators in mind.
Airbnb supports the EU’s data driven approach to the regulation of our industry, simply because we believe in the story that data will tell — and the innovative policymaking we hope it will underpin.
Europe’s tourism challenges did not start with Airbnb — nor can we alone fix them — but we are committed to doing more to help. We firmly believe that at least part of the solution to overtourism lies in dispersal, and we will continue to put this value at the heart of our work in Europe, as we move forward in collaboration with communities and governments.
Lodging Econometrics data
 Based on guest nights Eurostat data from 2021, the most recent year available