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Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

The EU recognises the importance of culture as part of the European tourism experience and as an element that can enhance the profile of Europe as a global destination. The European Commission supports the areas of cultural tourism that have the greatest potential for growth.

Europe is a key cultural tourism destination thanks to an incomparable cultural heritage that includes museums, theatres, archaeological sites, historical cities, industrial sites as well as music and gastronomy.

It is estimated that cultural tourism accounts for 40% of all European tourism 4 out of 10 tourists choose their destination based on its cultural offering.

The EU promotes a balanced approach between the need to boost growth on one side, and the preservation of artefacts, historical sites, and local traditions on the other.

Actions in the area of cultural tourism

European cultural routes

‘European Cultural Routes’ are transnational routes that help tourists discover how Europeans have lived since ancient times. The concept was launched by the Council of Europe in 1987.

The European Commission actively cooperates with the Council of Europe, the European Travel Commission, the UN World Tourism Organisation, and other international partners to contribute to the development of European Cultural Routes.

A joint study, between the Commission and the Council of Europe, ‘European Cultural Routes impact on SMEs' innovation and competitiveness (4 MB)’, found that cultural routes have shown enormous potential for small business generation, clustering, intercultural dialogue, and promoting the image of Europe in general.

Cultural routes can also strongly contribute to local economies and societies as they work on a sustainable and ethical model, building on local knowledge and skills and often promoting lesser-known destinations. For instance, 90% of cultural routes are through rural areas.

Funding for cultural tourism projects

The European Commission regularly publishes calls for proposals to support the development of physical or virtual ‘routes’ that have a transnational or European dimension and are based on cultural heritage.

Projects supported in 2018

The Commission funded 7 projects supporting development and promotion of transnational tourism products exploiting synergies between tourism and cultural and creative industries (CCIs):

Tourism and CCIs projects 2018

Projects supported in 2017

The Commission funded 6 projects supporting European cultural heritage-based transnational tourism products using cultural and creative industries (CCIs)-related technologies:

Tourism and CCIs projects 2017

Projects supported in 2014

The Commission funded projects supporting heritage-based transnational tourism products:

Cultural and industrial heritage projects 2014

Projects supported in 2013

The Commission funded projects supporting transnational tourism based on European cultural and industrial heritage:

Cultural and industrial heritage projects 2013

Projects supported in 2012

The Commission also funded projects based on transnational tourism related to cultural and industrial heritage in 2012:

Cultural and industrial heritage projects 2012

Projects selected in 2011

The Commission funded these projects related to cultural tourism in 2011.

Crossroads of Europe

Crossroads of Europe is an annual event that promotes European cultural itineraries and raises awareness about their potential for tourism among stakeholders, businesses, destination managers, and national and local authorities.

The Commission also organises many other events related to tourism.