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Development of sustainable tourism

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Development of sustainable tourism


To establish a strategic framework for European Community (EC) activities in the tourism sector in developing countries in order to allow tourism to develop sustainably, thus ensuring the positive contribution of this sector in the long term.

2) ACT

Communication from the Commission to the Council and European Parliament of 28 October 1998: "A European Community strategy to support the development of sustainable tourism in the developing countries" [COM(1998) 563 final/2 - Not published in the Official Journal].


Role of tourism

Tourism has become a very important and dynamic sector both in the world economy and particularly in the developing countries. Its growth affects not only the activities directly linked to tourism (mainly in the private sector) but also other sectors such as transport. It allows jobs to be created for various levels of workers, both skilled and unskilled, and for those often marginalised in the labour market such as women.

Tourism is already an important sector in certain developing countries and will become so for others. The opportunities presented by this phenomenon must therefore be seized. However, it must also be ensured that this sector does not develop in an uncontrolled manner threatening the natural environment and the social and cultural life of the country. The uncontrolled development of the sector risks its future being limited in the long term.


Tourism is based almost solely in the private sector and involves both large enterprises and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). However, the essential role of the public authorities must be taken into account. Political stability, good environmental management, security, etc. are essential factors in attracting tourists and the public authorities are largely responsible for these areas.

As for the European Community, the growth in this sector is reflected in its development policy and it is a significant donor in this area.

Objectives and means

The European Community has examined past activities in this area and has drawn some conclusions, including the following points:

  • the activities have been too centred on the promotion of tourism and therefore the environmental and social aspects have been neglected;
  • the choice of contacts has been too restricted. The national tourism offices and the national tourism administrations have been the main contacts. The range must be extended by consulting more often the private sector, non-governmental organisations and the players involved at the various geographical levels (regional, local, etc.).

A more comprehensive and coherent strategy is needed.

The main objectives and support of the EC are aimed at:

  • encouraging the sustainable development of tourismHelping to establish the conditions favourable to sustainable development which will protect the environment and population. The EC's strategy also tackles the problem of sex tourism involving children;
  • supporting the public authorities in planning and managing their policy in this area and also in ensuring effective monitoring. The EC will mainly provide technical aid to help the governments of the beneficiary countries implement policies encouraging the development of sustainable tourism. These will include establishing the necessary legal and institutional framework, supporting the development of human resources, preserving the public heritage and improving infrastructures. Technical aid is also needed to improve the information and commercial organisation of the sector;
  • helping to consolidate the role of industry in tourism in today's open and competitive market economy. Cooperation in the private sector must be encouraged and direct support given to the SMEs which make a considerable contribution to this sector.

Basic principles for implementing the strategy

Tourism is a fragmented and complex sector which has close links with other sectors. The EC's approach must be tailored to this complexity and to each country. The beneficiary countries will mainly be the developing countries which have cooperation agreements with the EC including this sector.

The strategy should be based on the following principles:

  • define the support framework for the country in question. The development of the tourism sector will vary from one country to another. The strategy for the country will be based on an analysis of the sector aimed, in particular, at identifying the validity of tourist development. The aid must also be targeted according to the level of development in the sector and the needs (short- or long-term aid, aid targeted to a sector or the adoption of a more global approach, etc.);
  • involve different players To this end, a partnership must in particular be encouraged between the public administration and the private sector, co-financing agreements must be concluded between the EC and the beneficiary countries and local initiatives must be supported. The intervention of the EC must be from the bottom up in order to involve more players;
  • encourage regional cooperation Regional cooperation may be very useful, particularly for the small countries, as it allows economies of scale to be made, common solutions to be found to common problems and it facilitates the exchange of good practices.

Coherence, coordination and complementarity The strategy must be harmonised with other EC strategies and policies and must also be based on the Community acquis in tourism. Coherence must also be ensured between all the donors. However, the EC should assume a leading role as it has a great deal of experience in this area and is the largest donor in this sector.

4) implementing measures

5) follow-up work

Last updated: 02.06.2006