The European Union supports, coordinates and complements the actions of EU countries related to tourism. EU tourism policy aims to maintain Europe’s position as a leading global destination and to turn Europe into a sustainable destination, bearing also its social and environmental aspects. Some objectives are, notably, to maximise the industry’s contribution to growth and jobs, as well as promote cooperation between EU countries and develop the attractiveness of Europe as a destination.
The transition of EU tourism
The EU‘s tourism ecosystem is highly diverse and complex, covering globalised and interconnected value chains. It comprises businesses in several sectors, including food and beverage services, online information and services providers (e.g. tourist offices or digital platforms), travel agents and tour operators, accommodation suppliers, destination managing organisations, attractions and passenger transport (such as airlines and airports, trains, busses and boats).
Despite the notable disparities between EU countries, tourism represents an important part of the EU’s overall economy. In 2019, it represented nearly 10% of the EU GDP and accounted for around 23 million jobs in the Union.
Just like for the other ecosystems, the update of the EU industrial strategy underlined the need to accelerate the green and digital transitions further and increase the resilience of EU tourism. To that end, the European Commission proposed to co-create a transition pathway with industry, public authorities, social partners and other stakeholders.
As the tourism ecosystem was hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic and faces major challenges to achieving the twin transition, it was the first industrial ecosystem to initiate the co-creation process.
On 4 February 2022, the Commission published the transition pathway for tourism. The report identifies 27 areas of measures for the green and digital transition and for improving the resilience of EU tourism. The Pathway is structured on building blocks developed by the Industrial Forum Task Force 2 and gathers elements identified by stakeholders and structures from over 30 meetings and workshops.
On 1 December 2022, the Council of the European Union adopted the European agenda for tourism 2030. The agenda is based on the Commission’s transition pathway for tourism and includes a multi-annual work plan with actions to be taken by the EU countries, the Commission and tourism stakeholders.
For more information on the transition of EU tourism, visit the dedicated pages.
General policy background
Article 195 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union underlines that the “Union shall complement the action of the Member States in the tourism sector, in particular by promoting the competitiveness of Union undertakings in that sector”. The EU, therefore, encourages the creation of a favourable environment and promotes cooperation between EU countries.
Over the past decade, Europe confirmed its position as the world-leading tourism destination. Until the publication of the transition pathway for tourism and the European tourism agenda 2030 in 2022, mainly two policy documents supported tourism at the EU level
- the 2010 communication Europe, the World’s N°1 tourist destination: A new political framework for tourism in Europe
the 2014 communication A European Strategy for more growth and jobs in coastal and maritime tourismThe tourism ecosystem is facing several challenges and the Commission’s policy has been assisting the EU tourism community to adapt to new trends and demand changes to better cope with climate, technological and social issues. The COVID-19 crisis accelerated the process and the European Commission released
- a communication on Transport and tourism in 2020 and beyond in May 2020
- an update of the 2020 European Industrial Strategy, proposing transition pathways for the transition of all the industrial ecosystems
Cooperation within the EU and beyond
Via the Tourism Advisory Committee (TAC), the Commission facilitates exchanges of EU country representatives on tourism and, in particular, on the provision of services for tourists. At the EU level, there is close contact with other EU bodies such as the Council of the EU, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of Regions.
The Commission works with international organisations on the sustainability and balanced development of tourism globally. Thus, the Commission strengthened its cooperation with the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Council of Europe (CoE).
In addition, to attract more tourists from non-EU countries, the Commission also cooperates with the European Travel Commission (ETC), a non-profit organisation promoting Europe as a tourist destination in strategic non-EU countries. The ETC gathers 34 European national tourism organisations from 33 countries in Europe. Since 2012, the Commission has co-financed the marketing and promotion of ‘Destination Europe’ via dedicated ad-hoc grants, notably via a Joint Promotion Platform. It is responsible for VisitEurope.com.
Travellers benefit from dedicated protection under EU law, notably in case of delays. This right exists not only for air and rail passengers but also for those that use buses, coaches or ships as means of transport.
Holidaymakers booking a package holiday and/or linked travel arrangements benefit from a high level of consumer protection under EU rules. The Package Travel Directive covers pre-arranged package holidays, but also self-customised packages, where the traveller chooses different elements from a single point of sale online or offline. Furthermore, these rules provide certain protection for linked travel arrangements, which is when for example the traveller books a flight on a website and is then invited to book a hotel on a different website. The Package Travel Directive is currently under review.
The legislative framework relevant to EU tourism is very broad and encompasses e.g. dedicated protection of travellers with disabilities, required documents for travelling, specific rules for travelling to and from the UK, requirements for the prevention of COVID-19 or rules for travelling with pets.
- Transition pathway for tourism – co-creation and co-implementation
- Green transition of tourism
- Digital transition of tourism
- Resilience of EU tourism
- Skills for the EU tourism workforce
- Commitments and pledges for the transition of EU tourism
If you would like to join our tourism mailing list, please send your request to GROW-G1@ec.europa.eu. You may also register for the Directorate-General for Industry’s newsletter for information on all the industrial ecosystems.