Tourism is an important driver of the economic and social development of the European Union. This industry consists of a wide range of products and exotic destinations and involves several different stakeholders including both government and private businesses.
The tourism sector stimulates economic growth by generating income, employment, and investment in Europe. It helps to sustain the EU’s cultural and natural heritage, provides revenue to fund facilities and infrastructure that can be enjoyed by residents as well as tourists, improving the awareness of a common European identity and citizenship distinguished by its diversity.
In 2018, Europe was the world’s number one tourist destination with a market share of 50.8 percent and generated, both directly and indirectly, 10.3 percent of the GDP of the 28 EU member states.
The European Commission works to develop the tourism sector and its potential to enhance the growth of the EU economy further, formulating policies to encourage competitiveness amongst the foreign players investing in the sector.
In 2017, more than 538 million international tourists traveled to at least one of the EU member countries, supporting 27.3 million people working in the tourism sector, with visitor exports generating EUR400 billion.
The sustainability of the tourism sector in the EU requires cooperation between tourism enterprises, tourist destinations, and local, regional and national authorities to tackle a variety of challenges while also addressing local issues and remaining competitive.
The main challenges to developing the tourism sector are growing global competition, in particular from Asia and Africa as well as evolving demands for certain kinds of tourism such as eco-tourism, cycling tourism, and social tourism.
The European Tourism Manifesto for Growth and Jobs
In February 2019, the European Tourism Manifesto for Growth and Jobs, together with the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) called on the European Commission to advance a strategic European tourism policy, which capitalizes on the potential of the tourism sector to be a key driver for economic growth and job creation.
The WTTC represents the Travel & Tourism private sector globally, with members including more than 170 leaders of the world’s leading travel and tourism companies from across the globe covering all industries within the sector.
The tourism sector has supported the creation of one-fifth of all new jobs in the last five years, making it one of the leading job creators in the EU, with evidence suggesting that it will remain one of the leading job creators. Therefore, the sector will become increasingly important to the European economy since it is labor-intensive, primarily made up of SMEs, with high female and youth employment ratios. According to WTTC research, a supportive policy could see 5.95 million tourism sector jobs created in the EU by 2028.
The tourism sector also benefits to Europe to fight racism and regional disparities, connecting people and their cultures while contributing to increased demand for local agricultural products, handicrafts, and cuisine.
The EU approach to tourism understands the impact of the sector but also supports the sharing of best practices among member states and their implementation at the regional level for long-term competitiveness. This approach is aligned with the Treaty of Lisbon, through article 195 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) which gives to the EU the responsibility to promote competitiveness in the European tourism sector by creating a favorable environment for its growth and development and by establishing an integrated approach to the tourism sector.
EU support for future challenges in the tourism sector
Lack of support or action in Europe is likely to lead to Europe to see a reduction in market share. While Europe remains the largest tourism market in terms of international arrival to date, the growth of just 0.2% in 2018 from the previous year, could lead to a drop in market share.
The European Parliament has already proposed to introduce a specific allocation of EUR300 million for sustainable tourism as part of the Single Market budget under the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for the years 2021 to 2027. This in response demands that the EU formulate effective tourism policies in a holistic European approach that considers the multiple impacts of the sector as well as the wide spectrum of stakeholders involved or affected by tourism. This includes dealing with competitiveness through smarter visa policies to make travel easier for legitimate travelers whilst promoting cross-border sales and service provision and providing EU financial support for the digitalization of the tourism sector and the creation of expert forums to promote good practice, including further price caps on data roaming charges, free Wi-Fi for visitors, and more multi-lingual content related to attractions and events in destinations. Good governance with a dedicated EU Tourism strategy, including the simplification of tax and consumer protection laws that are consistently enforced.