Tourism Economics: The Impact of Online Content on European Tourism (2017)


Online content is now a primary source of travel information, exceeding all other forms of traditional media and marketing in Europe. Travel businesses connect with consumers through online marketing, social media, travel apps, search functionality, and booking platforms. These diverse information sources and sales channels increasingly drive the European tourism sector.

Within the European tourism sector, the exploration of culture is a key motivator for travellers, accounting for 22% of tourism trips made by EU27 citizens in 2011. Culture-related searches in top travel-generating markets accounted for 45% of all tourism-related searches on Greece, 31% for Italy, and 44% for Spain.

The reality of this is made clear by the observation that destinations making greater use of the internet in reaching customers had performed better than their peers in more recent years and gained market share from their competitors. This is part of the reason why Greece and Spain had not experienced gains in the market share over the decade prior to the study while the gain in Italy’s market share was relatively subdued.

Geographical scope


Non-quantified impacts

Online content drives significant business, with online content supporting 10%, 26%, and 43% of all tourist arrivals in Greece, Italy, and Spain, respectively. The EU average is 49%, including research and booking. This leaves significant upside potential for the tourism industry in these countries to embrace an online presence more fully.

Online content provides benefits to smaller and independent establishments as well as well-known brands. By extension, increased online content also benefits the cultural tourism segment which includes many small and medium-sized enterprises, allowing tourists to experience more niche cultural activities.

Quantifiable impacts

Meaningful opportunities exist for these three countries to grow their tourism economies by investing in online content:

  • The tourism industry in Greece would benefit from a long-run increase in demand of up to 20% if action were taken to increase online activity to match that of leading EU countries. Taking wider benefits into account, including the supply-chain, this would increase Greece GDP by 3%, and would generate over 100,000 new jobs.
  • Italy would realise an incremental benefit to tourism demand of around 10% and a boost to whole economy GDP and employment of around 1%. Given the size of the economy this would translate into around 250,000 new jobs.
  • Spain does not lag as far as the others in terms of online penetration but the opportunities are still significant. Tourism demand would increase 3% with a 0.5% boost to total GDP. This would still translate into a notable employment benefit with over 50,000 new jobs.
  • Increased cultural online content alone could have a long-run benefit to whole economy GDP of around 1.5% in Greece, generating 50,000 new jobs. The benefits would be smaller in Italy and Spain, but still significant, pushing GDP up 0.3% in Italy and 0.2% in Spain: equivalent to around 75,000 and 20,000 new jobs, respectively.



Study type

Social media analysis

Economy sector