Europe is the world’s leading tourist destination. Therefore Tourism plays a key role in the development of many European regions. Sustainable tourism also ensures the preservation and enhancement of Europe's cultural and natural heritage. Cohesion Policy for 2007-13 aims at fully mobilising tourism for sustainable regional development and job creation.
The Structural and Cohesion Funds can provide essential support to improve the competitiveness and quality of tourism at regional and local levels. Infrastructure created for tourism contributes to local development, and jobs are created or maintained even in areas in industrial or rural decline, or those undergoing urban regeneration. Tourism is therefore an important tool for integrating less developed regions or giving them equal access to the fruits of growth.
Between 2007 and 2013, directly targeted EU support for tourism under Cohesion policy amounting to more than EUR 6 billion is planned, representing 1.8% of the total budget. EUR 3.8 billion is allocated for the improvement of tourist services, EUR 1.4 for the protection and development of natural heritage, and EUR 1.1 billion for the promotion of natural assets. In addition, support for tourism-related infrastructure and services can be provided under other headings, such as innovation, promotion of small and medium-sized enterprises, information technology applications and human capital.