Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

What is the demand for tourism services in developing countries?

Takes about 7 minutes to read

As a main source region for long haul tourism, Europe offers you good opportunities. Germany, the United Kingdom and France are the largest markets, but other countries are also promising. Eastern European countries show the highest growth in trips to developing countries. Smaller northern and western European countries boast a high per capita number of trips to developing countries. Their tourism expenditure per capita is also the highest. Study the countries to select your ideal markets.

1 . Tourism statistics for Europe

Europe is a large source region

The European market is one of the world’s largest source regions for long-haul tourism. Over 13% of all outbound trips from Europe are trips to developing countries, totalling 60 million trips in 2016. This also means there is still a lot of market share to gain, making European long-haul tourism an interesting target market for you.

The number of outbound trips is growing

European outbound tourism increased by 1.6% in 2016. Although trips to non-developing countries increased by 3.4%, trips to developing countries decreased by 8.9%. This decrease of 5.9 million trips can be accounted for by a declining interest in main destinations like Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey, which were often replaced with European destinations.

The number of trips to other developing country destinations actually increased by 3.5%. European travellers’ search for new and authentic experiences is expected to continue stimulating this growth.


  • Focus on two to three European priority countries. The European source market consists of many countries with different characteristics. Product, price, promotion and distribution strategies as well as interest in specific developing countries may differ per country.
  • Before targeting a specific source market, check your country’s air connectivity. Can travellers easily reach your country and are flights affordable?

2 . Tourism statistics for individual European markets

The European market has three main focus areas

In terms of opportunities, the European long-haul tourism market consists of three areas:

  • larger Western European countries – the United Kingdom, Germany and France
  • Eastern European countries – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Croatia
  • smaller Western and Northern European countries – the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Austria and Switzerland.


When selecting your European priority market(s), take the following criteria into account:

  • number and growth rate of trips to developing countries
  • number and growth rate of trips to your region/country
  • tourism expenditure
  • availability of airline connections to your destination, preferably direct flights
  • market trends and consumer preferences
  • historical bonds.

Large countries are the main source of European trips to developing countries

Three large countries dominate European trips to developing countries: Germany, the United Kingdom and France. These countries represent around half of the total European market. They are expected to remain the largest source markets and continue to offer you good opportunities.


  • Target the outbound tourism markets of the United Kingdom, Germany and/or France.
  • Attend tourism trade events in these countries, especially ITB in Germany, WTM in the United Kingdom and Top Resa in France.
  • Focus on specific product market combinations within these source markets, as competition might be fierce.

Eastern European countries are growing source markets

Eastern European countries can also be interesting. They are emerging markets for outbound tourism that still have to reach maturity. Due to rapidly growing economies, Eastern European travellers are increasingly travelling abroad. In fact, Eastern Europe shows some of the highest average annual growth rates in trips to developing countries between 2012 and 2016. Especially promising are Hungary (11%), Lithuania (6.7%), Bulgaria (4.0%) and Croatia (2.8%).


  • Target Eastern European countries with a growing market for developing country destinations.
  • Most travellers in these countries are first generation travellers. They generally choose mainstream holidays like sun and beach holidays and round trips. For more insights into the Eastern European tourism market, see our study about outbound tourism from emerging Eastern European countries.

Smaller northern and western European countries are also promising

Smaller northern and western European markets also offer good potential. Per capita, these countries have the highest numbers of trips to developing countries. They also boast the highest international tourism expenditure per capita, up to several times higher than the large source markets.

Note that Bulgaria shows the highest number of per capita trips to developing countries. However, these mainly consist of trips to Turkey (84%) and other nearby countries, like Serbia, Ukraine, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania.


  • Focus on smaller western and northern European markets. They can be easier to target as they are more compact and therefore have a clearer organisational structure.

3 . Developing country destinations

Developing countries in Asia are the most popular

With a 52% market share, developing countries in Asia are the most popular among European travellers. This is mainly due to good air connectivity and affordable ticket prices. In addition, popular Asian destinations like Turkey, Thailand and China already have experience with (mass) tourism and can offer large tourism capacity.

Developing countries in Africa come second, with a market share of 22%. This is largely because popular North African destinations like Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia are close to Europe and have good air connectivity. However, recent geopolitical unrest in the region has a considerable negative effect on its tourism industry. The number of visits from Europe to North Africa declined by 28% in 2016. Future developments of tourism in this area depend on the stability of the region.


Turkey is the most popular developing country destination

Turkey is by far the most visited developing country from Europe. Its location, good air connectivity and cheap all-inclusive tourism offers make it a popular mass tourism destination for sun and beach holidays.

However, European travellers increasingly look for experience holidays. This offers opportunities for other developing country destinations. The recent geopolitical unrest in Turkey also affects its tourism industry. Between 2015 and 2016, European outbound trips to Turkey declined by 30%. Since then, the sector has started to bounce back.  Turkey received 28% more international tourists in 2017 than the year before, led by Russians. In 2018, German tourists are also expected to return.


  • Promote new, authentic experiences you can offer travellers. Differentiate them from the experiences travellers can find elsewhere, to distinguish yourself from competitors.
  • Good air connections with the European market are essential. Join forces with your local public and private sector to lobby with airlines, tourism boards, tourism promotion organisations and other stakeholders. 

New tourism destinations show the highest growth

Developing countries with the highest growth in European arrivals between 2012 and 2016 were relatively new and further away destinations, such as Tajikistan, Myanmar and the Islamic Republic of Iran. This confirms the trend that European travellers are increasingly looking for new, authentic destinations and experiences. These travellers are especially interested in round trips, to learn about the destination’s culture and nature.


  • Compose basic round trip packages that include the most interesting cultural and natural highlights of your destination. Offer optional add-ons (“building blocks”) for European travellers to compose their own package.
  • Invest in continuous promotion activities in your European target market(s) to increase awareness of your country and tourism product. For example via trade events, road shows, familiarisation trips for press and tour operators and online advertising.

Individual European countries have different preferences

Influenced by for example language and air connectivity, individual European markets prefer different destinations. For example, Thailand and China are among the favourite destinations for northern and western European travellers. While Africa is especially popular among the French, Eastern European travellers like Ukraine and the Spanish prefer Latin America and Morocco. Leading developing country destination Turkey is popular across Europe.


  • Use outbound tourism statistics of individual European countries to choose your main target market(s). A good source to buy such statistics is the World Tourism Organisation

For more qualitative information, see our study about trends in tourism.

Please review our market information disclaimer.

Follow us for the latest updates