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Λογότυπος της Ευρωπαϊκής Επιτροπής
Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

USA: the main traditional international market

Attracting the American market

The United States (US) is one of Europe’s main long-haul inbound markets, in terms of the number of tourist arrivals and tourist spending.

In 2016 tourists from the US were the main visitors from outside the EU, spending 74 million nights in EU accommodation establishments. This was followed by visitors from Canada, who spent 17 million nights in EU accommodation establishments, and visitors from Brazil, who spent 10 million nights.

Given the volume of visitors from the United States, there is great potential for European tourism businesses to attract custom from American visitors. For this reason, it’s useful to get to know the American market. Once you understand their characteristics, behaviours and tastes, you can adapt your tourism offering to match.

Key data from the North American market

In 2016, tourists from the US carried out a total of 104 million trips worldwide – including 27 million trips to Europe.

UNWTO estimated that US tourists spent €119 billion on international travel (excluding international transport) in 2017, showing an increase of €8 billion on 2016.

Over half of US citizens’ outbound travel is to neighbouring countries, making up the top two destinations.
The entire top ten of outbound travel from the US is comprised of

  1. Canada
  2. Mexico Followed by
  3. United Kingdom
  4. Dominican Republic
  5. France
  6. Italy
  7. Germany
  8. Jamaica
  9. China
  10. Spain

Who is the average American traveller?

US citizens travel abroad predominantly in the northern hemisphere during the summer months of June, July and August, with a second peak in December. The favoured time to visit Europe is between May and September. The lowest volumes of US-to-Europe travel are in November, January and February.

According to the European Travel Commission (ETC), over three-quarters of outbound trips taken by US residents are for leisure/pleasure (47%) or for visiting family and friends (VFR) (29%). About 15% of trips are for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE travel), while 5% are for educational purposes.

In 2016, Europe accounted for

  • 25% of all US residents’ overseas trips
  • 35% of US residents’ leisure and VFR trips
  • 43% of US residents’ trips for MICE travel

According to the UNWTO study on the United States outbound travel market to Europe (conducted for the European Travel Commission), the most important sources in travel decision-making were

  • recommendations from friends and relatives (35%)
  • must-see world-renowned destinations (24%)
  • information on the internet (14%)
  • travel agency recommendations (10%)
  • ‘appealing advertising’ (8%)

Statistically speaking, the average American traveller is roughly 40 years old. They often visit with a partner, or on a multi-generation family holiday. Generally, they are from a high socio-economic and educational background. They are in search of good value across the trip, as well as the chance to experience and participate in European culture. They want to visit destinations that combine culture, history and gastronomy – for example, historical sites, rural areas that offer local produce, museums, restaurants and sightseeing spots.

What image do North Americans have of Europe?

Europe is the USA’s favourite destination, and there is great interest among US citizens in visiting and learning about Europe. The leading European destinations for US residents are the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany and Spain.

Europe is seen as a ‘whole’ destination, without distinctions between countries. It is also considered authentic, diverse and ‘safe and easy’, with good transport connections. Americans like Europe because of the cities, landscapes, the variety of cuisine and the convenience of communicating in English.

Further reading on market information

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