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Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

The competitiveness of the European tourism industry is closely linked to its sustainability and the European Commission works on a number of initiatives in this area.

The competitiveness and sustainability of the tourism industry go hand-in-hand as the quality of tourist destinations is strongly influenced by their natural and cultural environment and their integration into the local community.

Long-term sustainability requires a balance between economic, socio-cultural, and environmental sustainability. The need to reconcile economic growth and sustainable development also has an ethical dimension.

The Commission Communication, ‘Agenda for a sustainable and competitive European tourism’ proposes solutions to the challenges of sustainable tourism, see background.

Sustainable tourism actions

Diversifying the EU tourism offer - sustainable transnational tourism products

As part of its work in diversifying the tourism experiences on offer in the EU, the Commission co-funds sustainable transnational tourism products that can contribute to tourism growth.

These are thematic products and services in areas such as environmentally friendly tourism including cycling routes, sports and wellbeing tourism, nature tourism, and cultural routes crossing Europe.

Sustainable transnational tourism products

The European Tourism Indicators System (ETIS)

Because tourist destinations are increasingly called upon to measure their performance in relation to sustainability, the Commission has developed a European Tourism Indicators System as a simple method for measuring sustainability performance.

The European Tourism Indicators System for sustainable management at destination level

The EU Ecolabel and EMAS

The EU Ecolabel is a voluntary tool that is available to tourism accommodation services willing to prove and promote their environmental excellence. Specific EU Ecolabel criteria have been developed for tourist accommodation and campsite services.
EMAS registration allows actors in the tourism sector to improve their environmental performance and promote the quality of their services. EMAS best environmental management practice document can guide them in this process.


Major challenges for sustainable tourism include

  • preserving natural and cultural resources
  • limiting negative impacts at tourist destinations, including the use of natural resources and waste production
  • promoting the wellbeing of the local community
  • reducing the seasonality of demand
  • limiting the environmental impact of tourism-related transport
  • making tourism accessible to all
  • improving the quality of tourism jobs

The 2007 Commission Communication, ‘Agenda for a sustainable and competitive European tourism’ recommended the use of the following principles to address these challenges

  • taking a holistic, integrated approach
  • planning for the long term
  • adopting an appropriate pace of development
  • involving all stakeholders
  • using the best available knowledge
  • minimising and managing risk
  • reflecting impacts in costs
  • setting and respecting limits
  • practising continuous monitoring