The EU recognises the importance of culture as part of the European tourism experience and as an element that can enhance the profile of Europe as a global destination. The European Commission supports the areas of cultural tourism that have the greatest potential for growth.
Europe is a key cultural tourism destination thanks to an incomparable cultural heritage that includes museums, theatres, archaeological sites, historical cities, industrial sites as well as music and gastronomy.
It is estimated that cultural tourism accounts for 40% of all European tourism; 4 out of 10 tourists choose their destination based on its cultural offering.
The EU promotes a balanced approach between the needs to boost growth on one side, and the preservation of artifacts, historical sites, and local traditions on the other.
‘European Cultural Routes’ are transnational routes that help tourists discover how Europeans have lived since ancient times. The concept was launched by the Council of Europe in 1987.
The European Commission actively cooperates with the Council of Europe, the European Travel Commission, the UN World Tourism Organisation, and other international partners to contribute to the development of European Cultural Routes.
A joint study, between the Commission and the Council of Europe, ‘European Cultural Routes impact on SMEs' innovation and competitiveness (4 MB)’, found that cultural routes have shown enormous potential for small business generation, clustering, intercultural dialogue, and promoting the image of Europe in general.
Cultural routes can also strongly contribute to local economies and societies as they work on a sustainable and ethical model, building on local knowledge and skills and often promoting lesser-known destinations. For instance, 90% of cultural routes are through rural areas.
The European Commission regularly publishes calls for proposals to support the development of physical or virtual ‘routes’ that have a transnational or European dimension and are based on cultural heritage.
The Commission funded projects supporting heritage-based transnational tourism products:
The Commission funded projects supporting transnational tourism based on European cultural and industrial heritage:
The Commission also funded projects based on transnational tourism related to cultural and industrial heritage in 2012:
The Commission funded these projects related to Cultural Tourism in 2011.
Crossroads of Europe is an annual event that promotes European cultural itineraries and raises awareness about their potential for tourism among stakeholders, businesses, destination managers, and national and local authorities.
The Commission also organises many other events related to tourism.