Amid the ash, some good news for European tourism

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In a rare piece of good news for a sector hit by airline strikes and volcano dust, the European Travel Commission has said that tourism to Europe is on the up in 2010.

In its first indicator report of the year, the European body said April 15 that positive trends seen in the latter part of 2009 appeared to be continuing - discounting the current airline chaos, there are more people flying to Europe and hotels are fuller.

It estimates that visits to European destinations will rise by 2.4 percent this year and 3.8 percent in 2011, at which point it will catch up to the figures seen in 2008, before the recession.

Hotels across Europe were 1.6 percent fuller than a year earlier in the first two months of 2010, the report says, led by gains in Eastern and Southern Europe.

In 2009, tourism to Europe dropped by six percent overall, and by as much as 20 percent in some parts of Eastern Europe as travelers cut back on expenses.

The European Travel Commission's report shows tourists are still on the lookout for a bargain. While visitor demand for hotels is coming back, the expectation of lower prices remains, say the researchers.

Overall, travel remains closer to home - consumers are travelling less far and taking shorter trips - and with less notice, as travelers hold off booking until the last moment in the hope of finding a deal.