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New political framework for European tourism

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New political framework for European tourism

Europe is the world’s No 1 tourist destination. In order to maintain Europe’s leading position, the Commission encourages a new framework for coordinated action within the European Union (EU) to increase the competitiveness and capacity for sustainable growth of European tourism.


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – “Europe, the world's No 1 tourist destination – a new political framework for tourism in Europe” [COM(2010) 352 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


In accordance with the new European Union (EU) priorities set out in the ‘Europe 2020’ strategy, and to keep Europe as the world’s top tourist destination, the Commission proposes a new framework for coordinated tourism actions at EU level to increase the competitiveness and capacity for sustainable growth of European tourism.

Tourism represents the third largest socioeconomic activity in the EU and is estimated to generate over 10 % of the EU’s GDP, providing approximately 12 % of all jobs. It is therefore an important sector for both EU citizens and industry, with a positive effect on economic growth and employment within the EU.

The Treaty of Lisbon recognised the importance of tourism, granting the EU the power to support, coordinate and complement actions of the EU countries in this sector. The definition and clarification of the EU’s competencies in this field enables the establishment of a comprehensible framework for action. According to the Treaty of Lisbon, the EU’s specific measures in the tourism sector should be aimed at:

  • encouraging the creation of a favourable environment for the development of undertakings in this sector;
  • promoting cooperation between EU countries, particularly by the exchange of good practice.

Challenges and opportunities facing the European tourism industry

European tourism has faced a difficult economic situation due to the financial and economic crisis of 2008 which had a significant impact on the demand for tourism services. The situation was worsened by the interruption of air traffic due to volcanic ash clouds following the Ejyafjöll volcano eruption in 2010, resulting in an important number of cancelled tourist arrivals and consequently a considerable loss to the air transport sector, as well as to the hotel sector and other tourist-related activities.

New framework for action in European tourism

In line with the ‘Europe 2020’ economic strategy, the framework for tourism actions at EU level can be built around the following four priorities:

  • Stimulate competitiveness in the European tourism sector by:
    • developing innovation in tourism by, for example, facilitating the adaptation of the sector and its businesses to market developments in the field of information and communication technology and innovation;
    • improving professional skills in the sector through promotion of opportunities offered by various EU programmes, such as Leonardo or the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme with its “Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs” and “E-skills for Innovations” strands;
    • attempting to overcome the seasonal nature of demand by, for example, facilitating voluntary tourism exchanges between EU countries, especially during the low season and for specific target groups of the society, and encouraging the development of a voluntary online information exchange to improve the coordination of school holidays in EU countries;
    • promoting diversification of the supply of tourist services in particular by better focusing on and promoting Europe’s common heritage, as well as by integrating ‘natural’ heritage into tourism strategies;
    • contributing towards a better coordination of tourism-related research activities and consolidating the socioeconomic data on tourism at European level.
  • Promote the development of sustainable, responsible and high-quality tourism by:
    • developing a system of indicators for the sustainable management of destinations which could contribute towards developing a label for promoting sustainable tourist destinations;
    • organising awareness-raising campaigns better informing European tourists about destinations, including information about transport and relationships with the local population;
    • developing a European brand for tourism quality, based on national experiences, to increase consumer security and confidence;
    • facilitating the identification of climate change risks to protect the European tourism industry from making the wrong investments and exploring alternative tourism services;
    • proposing a charter for sustainable and responsible tourism;
    • proposing a strategy for sustainable coastal and marine tourism;
    • establishing or strengthening the EU’s cooperation with emerging countries and with Mediterranean countries to promote sustainable and responsible tourism development models and the exchange of best practice.
  • Consolidate the image and profile of Europe as a collection of sustainable and high-quality destinations by:
    • supporting the creation of a ‘Europe brand’, in close cooperation with EU countries and complementary to their promotional efforts, so as to enable European destinations to better stand out when compared to other international tourist destinations;
    • promoting Europe as a sustainable and high-quality tourist destination through the ‘’ website and at major international events or large-scale tourism fairs and exhibitions;
    • strengthening EU participation in international bodies.
  • Maximise the potential of EU policies and financial instruments for developing tourism by:

Last updated: 08.09.2010