Why is it relevant to tourism?
EU cohesion policy has traditionally been an ally of European regions in their efforts to add value to geographical assets and the cultural and historical heritage. This is particularly true of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) under its European Territorial Cooperation strand (Interreg). This programme helps support tourism in an efficient and sustainable manner and strengthen economic, social and territorial cohesion in the European Union.
Tourism funding criteria
As part of the EU’s long-term budget from 2021 - 2027 , cohesion policy has provides plenty of possibilities to strengthen the foundations of a more resilient and sustainable tourism ecosystem. It is also helping to address the green and digital transitions and needs through the Transition Pathway for Tourism. Investments in tourism are possible through all 5 policy objectives supported by the ERDF. They must comply with the relevant objectives, enabling conditions, or minimum requirements established for the adopted EU cohesion policy programmes.
Following the adoption of these programmes, most of the ERDF support has been concentrated under a specific aim in policy objective 4 (A more social and inclusive Europe). This is dedicated to strengthening role of tourism in fostering socio-economic development, social inclusion, and social innovation. This is part of integrated sustainable territorial development strategies under policy objective 5 (A Europe Closer to citizens).
Under the European Territorial Cooperation strand of ERDF, Interreg programmes support cross-border (Interreg A and IPA), transnational (B), interregional ( C) and outermost regions’ (Interreg D) cooperation.
Tourism is among the most popular supported sectors under these programmes, following the same scope and narrative as under ERDF. In some cases, support for cross-border cooperation in the field of tourism has also been embedded in support for sustainable tourism in national and regional cohesion policy programmes.
The Cohesion Fund is also one of the funds for delivering EU Cohesion policy. It is aimed at Member States whose Gross National Income (GNI) per inhabitant is less than 90 % of the EU average. and who support TEN-T and environmental projects, as they can also have an impact on the tourism ecosystem.
Under the European Urban Initiative (EUI) funded by ERDF, sustainable tourism was included as one of the three topics targeted in Innovative Actions, the second EUI call for proposals. It has a total budget of €120 million. This call is for tangible innovative projects to trigger long-term green and digital transformation, resilience and sustainability in the tourism sector in cities.
The ERDF aims to strengthen economic, territorial and social cohesion in the European Union by correcting development imbalances between its regions.
For the 2021-2027 budget, the Cohesion Fund covers Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
The ERDF and the Cohesion Fund, together with the European Social Fund Plus and the newly created Just Transition Fund, form the EU Cohesion Policy funds.
The ERDF and the Cohesion Fund invest €234 billion in the EU's regions (respectively, €191 billion through ERDF and €43 billion through CF). The ERDF focuses its investments on 5 key priority areas known as policy objectives
- a more competitive and smarter Europe
- a greener, low carbon transitioning towards a net zero carbon economy
- a more connected Europe by enhancing mobility
- a more social and inclusive Europe
- Europe closer to citizens by fostering the sustainable and integrated development of all types of territories
The Cohesion Fund (CF) supports environmental infrastructure and priority EU projects in Trans-European Transport Networks. It also covers projects of energy efficiency, use of renewable energy or sustainable urban mobility presenting clear environmental benefits.
ERDF/CF, as the rest of the EU cohesion policy funds, are managed predominantly via shared management.
In each Member State and partner countries, managing authorities are entrusted to allocate funding and set up a management and control system to ensure the implementation of the fund based on agreed programmes (which are also developed and implemented in a multi-level governance approach, in line with the partnership principle).
These entities are then responsible for launching the respective calls for projects according to addresses specific needs in the context of the agreed programme.
Examples of supported projects
Project title:Sardinia Observatory for Tourism, Craft and Commerce
Description:The project uses the potential of digitalisation to encourage innovation, economic growth, B2B and market competitiveness for Tourism, Crafts and Commerce in the region of Sardinia. The Observatory’s Tourist Movement Dashboard serves as an interactive system for analysing and displaying data on the movements of tourists in Sardinia, out of which annual trend reports are produced.
The facilitated open data looks into tourist movements, broken down by reference markets, and on the capacity of accommodation facilities
EU contribution: € 2.4 million (ERDF)
Level of EU funding: N/A
Project title: Revitalisation of a former industrial complex "Rikard Benčić” into a cultural district
Description: With the help of ERDF investment, an abandoned industrial area in Rijeka, Croatia, is being transformed into a modern cultural and tourism district housing the city’s museum, library, and a creative space for children. The investment forms part of the Rijeka 2020 European Capital of Culture project and is jointly funded by the ERDF, the city, and national government.
In line with changing urban needs and developments, the project promotes cooperation between 3 cultural entities and the institutions, in collaboration with Rijeka’s citizens for any further planning and development of the cultural district.
EU contribution: €15 800 000
Level of EU funding: 44.4%
Project title: Electro-solar boat to discover the Charente
Description: The project facilitates the discovery of the river’s heritage through environmentally-friendly alternatives that do not impact on the environment. In this case, the project consisted in the acquisition of a solar-powered boat to replace a heavy, old, fuel-intensive boat and in the implementation of circular business models within the company responsible for the tourism service.
As a result, the project has been awarded the French prize for sustainable tourism in the 'open' category.
EU contribution: € 80 000
Level of EU funding: 12.5%
Project title: Raised Bogs – A Unique European Area situated in the Polish-Slovak borderland
Description: to explore peatland between Poland and Slovakia, the project “Raised Bogs” developed a cross-border accessible site consisting of two museums, one in Poland and the other in Slovakia, and an extension of a cycling route passing by historical, cultural and natural sites around the Tatras mountains.
In addition, the project also focuses on sustainability and addresses the challenge of reconciling larger-scale tourism to the area with properly conserving the peatland and related heritage sites from potential damage. It serves an important role in raising awareness among residents and tourists alike – especially school-age children – of the significance of the peatland and the need to protect it for future generations.
EU contribution: € 911 188.11
Level of EU funding: 84.9%
Project Title: Bookingbility
Description: With the support of ERDF, an online platform has been created in Sicily, Italy, to help disabled people find and book accessible accommodation that caters to their special needs. The project provides for people with various requirements. This includes those in wheelchairs, but also children, the elderly, mothers pushing strollers, slow-moving individuals, those who cannot see or hear, and people with allergies or dietary problems.
In doing so, it seeks to combine tourism and the ability to respond to hospitality needs requiring extra care, dialogue and technical knowledge so that those with special needs have enough accurate information to select the alternatives best suited to their requirements.
EU contribution: € 162 791
Level of EU funding: 54.6%
Database of examples
Discover projects implemented in your region, by theme, policy area and beneficiaries