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Sustainable Tourism

The competitiveness of the European tourism industry is closely linked to its sustainability, as the quality of tourist destinations is strongly influenced by their natural and cultural environment and their integration into the local community.

Long term sustainability requires a balance between sustainability in economic, socio-cultural and environmental terms. The need to reconcile economic growth and sustainable development also brings in an ethical dimension.

Major challenges for sustainable tourism include:

  • preserving natural and cultural resources
  • limiting negative impacts at tourist destinations, including use of natural resources and waste production
  • promoting the wellbeing of the local community
  • reducing the seasonality of demand
  • limiting the environmental impact of tourism related transport
  • making tourism accessible to all
  • improving the quality of tourism jobs.

The Agenda for sustainable & competitive European tourism български (bg) czech (cs) dansk (da) Deutsch (de) eesti (et) ελληνικά (el) español (es) Français (fr) Gaeilge (ga) hrvatski (hr) italiano (it) latviešu (lv) lietuvių (lt) magyar (hu) Malti (mt) Nederlands (nl) polski (pl) português (pt) română (ro) slovenčina (sk) slovenščina (sl) suomi (fi) svenska (sv)

(COM(2007)621final) lays down principles to address these challenges:

  • taking a holistic, integrated approach
  • planning for the long term
  • adopting an appropriate pace of development
  • involving all stakeholders
  • using the best available knowledge
  • minimising and managing risk
  • reflecting impacts in costs
  • setting and respecting limits
  • practicing continuous monitoring.

A sustainable approach to tourism will lead to the development of innovative, quality tourism products and services and make European destinations even more attractive.

Projects co-funded by the EU on transnational thematic tourism products contributing to a more sustainable tourism

An important number of sustainable transnational thematic tourism products and services has being developed and has a great potential to contribute to tourism growth (e.g. cultural routes crossing several countries on different topics, cycling paths, eco-tourism products, sports tourism, eno-gastronomic tourism, health and wellbeing tourism, protected natural sites based tourism, nature tourism, historical, religious-pilgrim tourism, agro-tourism, rural tourism, or tourism capitalising on the maritime and sub-aquatic cultural heritage, industrial heritage etc.).

To stimulate competitiveness in the European tourism sector, the Commission encourages diversification of the supply of tourist services and products. By supporting projects promoting sustainable thematic tourism products EU aims at:

  • Strengthening trans-national cooperation with regard to sustainable tourism
  • Encouraging a higher involvement of small and micro enterprises and local authorities;
  • Stimulating competitiveness of the tourism industry by means of an enhanced focus on the diversification of sustainable thematic tourism products.


A call for proposals is currently open for applications. It aims at promoting sustainable transnational tourism products (such as e.g: routes, itineraries, trails, tourism offer…) in sport or wellness activities in relation to one of the following types of tourism: coastal or maritime or mountain or rural tourism.

See the text of the call for more details. The deadline for applying is 7 October 2014.


6 projects have been awarded under the 2013 call for proposals – Supporting the enhancement and promotion of transnational thematic tourism products" . They will start on 1 April 2014 for a duration of 15 or 18 months.

Coordinating organisation Project
Le Città Invisibili (Italy)
Provinzia di Mantova (Italy)
European Cyclists’ Federation (Belgium)

EuroVelo 13 – Iron Curtain Trail

University of Eastern Finland, Centre for Tourism Studies (Filand)
Danube Competence Center (Serbia)
Chambre de commerce belgo-italienne (Belgium/Italy)


The Commission selected 7 transnational projects for co-funding under the call for proposals – Support to transnational thematic tourism products as means of enhancing competitiveness & sustainability of European tourism. The projects will run for a period of 18 months starting in April or May 2013.

Coordinating organisation Project
City of Limoges (France)CERA-DEST - Ceramic destinations for sustainable tourism pdf - 74 KB [74 KB]
Diputació de Barcelona – Barcelona Province Council (Spain)EUquus - Equestrian tourism routes in Europe pdf - 126 KB [126 KB]
Fundación de los Ferrocarriles Españoles (Spain)Greenways product pdf - 158 KB [158 KB]
Communauté d'agglomération du Puy-en-Velay (France)The Saint James Ways as a mean of European sustainable tourism development (LOCI IACOBI 2) pdf - 91 KB [91 KB]
Municipality of Bullas, Murcia (Spain)SECRET WINE TOURS - Discover the hidden charms of Europe pdf - 146 KB [146 KB]
Regione Veneto (Italy)Venetian Routes:Enhancing a shared European multi-cultural sustainable Tourism (VeRoTour) pdf - 98 KB [98 KB]
EXIT TIM DOO, Private Limited Company (Serbia)"WBAADT" – Western Balkan Adventure and Discovery Tour pdf - 200 KB [200 KB]

Results of transnational projects supported in 2012-2014

Coordinating organisation Project
Naturefriends International (Austria)DanubeHIKE
European Greenways Association (Spain)Greenways4Tour
Province of Utrecht (The Netherlands)Limes Tourism Connection
European Cyclists' Federation (Belgium)
Associazione Europea delle Vie Francigene (Italy)PER VIAM Pilgrims' Routes in Action

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