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European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and Cohesion Fund

This webpage covers the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and Cohesion Fund strictly as part of funding projects related to tourism.

Why is it relevant to tourism?

To strengthen the environmental, socioeconomic sustainability and resilience of tourism in the long term, regions and countries are encouraged to help transform the sector by learning from innovative solutions. Investments in tourism are possible through all 5 policy objectives supported by the ERDF (see below), provided that they comply with the relevant objectives, enabling conditions, or minimum requirements established for the concerned policy objectives.

A specific objective under policy objective 4 (A more social and inclusive Europe) is dedicated to exploiting the full potential of culture and tourism for an economic recovery coupled with social inclusion and environmental and financial sustainability, without prejudice to the possibilities for support provided from the ERDF to those sectors under other specific objectives.

The Cohesion Fund can support tourism-related investments in environment and in the trans-European transport networks (TEN-T), in particular in regions with an economy heavily dependent on tourism.

Regarding European Territorial Cooperation (Interreg) programmes, tourism is expected to still be among the most popular topics. It can be addressed by a two-fold approach

  1. through the Interreg programmes (European Territorial Cooperation regulation)
  2. through the mainstream programmes 'embedding cooperation'

Overview of tourism-related components

Details of the programme

The ERDF aims to strengthen economic, territorial and social cohesion in the European Union by correcting development imbalances between its regions.

The Cohesion Fund targets the reduction of economic and social disparities through investment in environment and Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN-T). It covers EU countries whose Gross National Income (GNI) per inhabitant over the period 2015-2017 was less than 90% of the EU average. In 2021-2027 these are Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

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 several key priority areas known as 'thematic concentrations', i.e. innovation and research, the digital agenda, support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), environment and the net-zero-carbon economy.

The Cohesion Fund 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.

Additional information and how to apply

Example (s) of supported projects

Project Title: Aldeias Históricas de Portugal (AHP) [Historical Villages of Portugal]

Description: The Aldeias Históricas de Portugal (AHP) [Historical Villages of Portugal] is composed of 12 villages spread over 10 municipalities (5,315.39 km2). This project focused on training people with low skills to reintegrate into the job market, developing new business ideas specific to each village and revitalising existing abandoned and dilapidated buildings. It is based on urban and heritage regeneration initiatives and helping to create micro-businesses in the tourism sector. The project had been granted tourism status, with a special focus on cultural tourism given the heritage assets involved.

EU contribution: €21,292

Level of EU funding: 85%

Link to project: Aldeias Históricas de Portugal (AHP) – revitalising villages through education and business development-Projects - Regional Policy - European Commission


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

Link to project: Sardinia Observatory for Tourism, Craft and Commerce - Explore tourism in Sardinia


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 the 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%

Link to project: New cultural life for historic factory complex in Rijeka, Croatia-Projects - Regional Policy - European Commission


Project Title: A future creative hotspot

Description: Through C-Mine, the industrial town of Genk aimed to reinvent itself as an entrepreneurial city. The project helped transform a former coal mining site into a place where creative economic activities and the gaming industry can thrive. The creative hotspot hosts a cultural centre, tourism attractions and is home to the ’Media and Design Academy’.

EU contribution: €317,819,800

Level of EU funding: 57%

Link to project: A future creative hotspot-Projects - Regional Policy - European Commission

Database of examples