NEW YORK -- The number of Americans traveling to Europe is
expected to reach 11.5 million this year and to top 12 million in
2000, according to Joseph Buhler, head of Switzerland Tourism in
New York and U.S. chairman of the European Travel Commission.
"It's true that Kosovo gave us a scare, but growth resumed
quickly," he told ETC's annual Transatlantic Marketing Conference
in New York.
In 1998, there were just under 11 million U.S. arrivals; 1999's
expected figure of 11.5 million would be the seventh straight
record year for U.S. travel to Europe.
The last downturn came in 1991, the year of the Persian Gulf
war, when U.S. arrivals dipped to 6.3 million from 7.5 million in
Buhler said that although baby boomers and seniors are still
"Europe's base" in the U.S. market, "younger people now account for
more than 30% of our visitors." Families traveling with children
make up 15%, he added.
In terms of the geographic breakdown of the market, there has
been significant growth from U.S. regions other than the Northeast
and the West Coast, traditionally the strongest market
"The South, for instance, sends at least as many visitors to
Europe" as either of those two regions, he said. However, Buhler
also observed that the growth in U.S. travel to Europe has failed
to keep pace with the growth of the "potential market," i.e., those
Americans with the resources that would permit them to travel
"While our traffic grew 40% since 1990, our potential market
grew nearly 100%," Buhler said. He cited "promotional anemia" for
"We just did not spend anything close to what it takes on
promotion to both develop repeat visitor business and to convince
more people to make that all-important first trip to Europe,"
ETC has been reaching out to the private sector for partners to
help sponsor some of its promotional activities, like its newspaper
For example, a Great Autumn Sale supplement distributed in nine
major markets was supported by Volvo, Auto Europe, Go Ahead
Vacations and American Airlines; last spring's European Travel
Planner had partners including Rail Europe, AT&T and Preview
"If and when the U.S. economy again responds to gravity, the
failure to invest during good times could cost Europe dearly,"