Major challenges for EU tourism and policy responses [Policy Podcast]

Written by Vasilis Margaras,

Major challenges for EU tourism and policy responses

© Alfio Finocchiaro /

Constituting the third-largest economic activity in the EU, tourism is of considerable importance as a source of economic growth, regional development and employment. Although it has been badly affected by the economic crisis in the past years, tourism has proved resilient, as witnessed by the growing number of visitors to the EU over the years. Nonetheless, the industry is faced with a number of challenges and mounting competition, in particular from emerging non-European destinations, whose share in the global tourist market is gradually increasing. Because of its transversal nature, tourism is impacted upon by various policies, including those on transport, environment, consumer protection and regional development. These policies are not always easy to coordinate.

Since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009, the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) allows the EU to support, coordinate or supplement the actions of the Member States in the domain. However, this legal advance has not led to a great impetus towards EU-level policy-making in tourism. Although EU legislation has progressively covered a number of fields in which the EU has exclusive or shared competency with the Member States (such as transport, transport security and passenger rights), tourism policy remains essentially nationally regulated.

In recent years, the European Commission has presented two strategies on tourism: ‘Europe, the world’s No 1 destination – a new political framework for tourism in Europe (2010)’, in which it sets out the EU’s priorities and actions regarding the sector, and ‘A European strategy for more growth and jobs in coastal and maritime tourism’ (2014). In a resolution from 2011, the Parliament made a number of suggestions for achieving a competitive modern and sustainable tourism. In 2015, the Parliament welcomed the 2014 European Commission strategy and called for the adoption of a number of additional initiatives to ensure that it is implemented in real terms.

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