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Agenda for a sustainable and competitive European tourism

Europe is the most attractive tourist destination in the world, and tourism plays a major part in growth and job creation in Europe. The sector's competitiveness is closely linked to its sustainability, as the quality of tourist destinations is very much influenced by their natural environment and their local community. For this reason it is necessary to take a holistic approach, addressing not only the economic prosperity of the sector, but also social cohesion, environmental protection and promotion of the culture of European tourist destinations.


Communication from the Commission of 19 October 2007 – Agenda for a sustainable and competitive European tourism [COM(2007) 621 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


This Communication is the official launching and endorsement of an Agenda for sustainable and competitive tourism. The objectives of this Agenda are to deliver economic prosperity, social equity and cohesion and environmental and cultural protection.

These involve several challenges for the sector, including:

  • ensuring the safety of tourists and local communities;
  • protecting the natural and cultural resources of tourist destinations;
  • minimising resource use and pollution in tourism destinations;
  • managing change in the interests of the wellbeing of the community;
  • reducing the seasonality of demand;
  • addressing the environmental impact of transport linked to tourism;
  • making tourism experiences accessible to all, without discrimination;
  • improving the quality of tourism jobs.

The objectives of the Agenda will be achieved by means of appropriate policies such as sustainable destination management (for example, through spatial and land use planning or investment decisions on infrastructure and services), the integration of sustainability concerns by businesses and raising awareness of sustainability among tourists.

To achieve competitive and sustainable tourism the Commission proposes the following principles:

  • taking a holistic and integrated approach in order to ensure that tourism is well balanced and respectful of society and the environment;
  • planning for the long term, with an eye to the needs of future generations as well as our own;
  • achieving an appropriate pace of development, respecting the character of tourist destinations;
  • involving all stakeholders;
  • using the best available knowledge and sharing it across Europe;
  • minimising and managing risk (precautionary principle), i.e. taking preventative action to avoid damage to the environment or society;
  • reflecting impacts in costs (user and polluter pay) – prices should reflect the real costs to society of consumption and production activities;
  • setting and respecting limits, where appropriate – it is sometimes necessary to evaluate the capacity of tourist destinations and to limit the amount of tourism development;
  • undertaking continuous monitoring – sustainability means being alert all the time.

All tourism stakeholders in Europe are called upon to participate in the implementation of this Agenda: public authorities at all levels, businesses, tourists, educational and research establishments, trade unions, consumer associations, NGOs and international organisations. The Commission, for its part, plans to implement all of the actions set out below.

Mobilising actors to produce and share knowledge

Best practice related to sustainability and competitiveness must be shared. For this reason the Commission actively supports or will actively support the following initiatives:

  • the organisation of conferences and studies and the publication of a tourism learning area handbook;
  • cooperation between universities, research institutes, public and private observatories, tourism education and transnational training;
  • the creation of alliances between different types of destinations, the strengthening or the creation of platforms;
  • the organisation of the annual European Tourism Forum;
  • the use of the annual reports from Member States;
  • the collection and provision of statistical and geographic data and the activity of observatories;
  • the sharing of best practice with international organisations.

Promoting destinations of excellence

The Commission will continue to implement the “European Destinations of Excellence” (EDEN) initiative. It will also continue to promote Europe as a sustainable, quality destination. It will work towards this with the European Travel Commission and the national tourism organisations, and will lend greater support to the European Destination Tourism Portal.

Mobilising EU financial instruments

Tourism projects may receive funding from several Community funds, including:

Mainstreaming sustainability and competitiveness in Commission policies

Several Community policies can have an effect on tourism and its sustainability: environment, transport, employment or research. These policies have different impacts depending on the region. The Commission will take into account the specific needs of the areas, whether coastal areas, mountainous areas, rural areas or urban areas.

See also

To find out more about European action to support the tourism industry, go to the DG Enterprise and Industry website.

Last updated: 15.02.2008