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Europe travel trend watch: more of everything, coming soon

A recent report by EUROCONTROL (the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation) predicts a major jump in the number of people traveling to and within Europe in the next seven years. By 2012, there will be 11.4 million flights per year in Europe, a 26 percent increase from 2005. And this prediction doesn't even factor in a possible Open Skies agreement between the U.S. and the E.U., a development which would further increase air traffic.

It's easy to think that all this new air traffic would lower train passenger numbers, but in fact the addition of more high speed train networks will most likely reduce air traffic growth, though only by about one percent. All of this points to an air system connecting countries as efficiently as U.S. airlines link states, combined with the comprehensive train network Europe is known for.

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The rising star in all of this is Madrid's Barajas Airport, where a new terminal that doubles the airport's capacity opened in April. The new terminal puts Barajas in a position to overtake Amsterdam's Schipol and become Europe's third busiest airport. This is good news for U.S. visitors, since Madrid is closer to the U.S. than major European airports such as Paris and Frankfurt. And, as the only airport in Europe's top five to be located in southern Europe, it will be especially good for travelers to Spain, Portugal, and other destinations in and along the Mediterranean.

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