The year provides many opportunities to explore the relationship between cultural heritage and cultural tourism. During the year, discussions around the concept of the sustainability of cultural heritage along with the economic benefits of tourism are taking place. The combination of these two can be a powerful economic driver; but only if managed in a way that benefits communities.

For whom?

Policymakers, cultural heritage professionals, research communities, local communities, and tourism organisations.


This initiative has 5 components:

Component 1: Towards policy recommendations on sustainable cultural tourism

An EU Member States expert group is examining sustainable cultural tourism across Europe and identifying good practices. At the end of 2018, the group will present policy recommendations and guidelines for regional and local authorities, and stakeholders.


• March 2017 - October 2018
Meetings of EU Member States expert group on Sustainable Cultural Tourism
• 19 April 2018
Network of European Regions for Competitive and Sustainable Tourism (NECSTouR) Workshop in Barcelona, Spain
• 21 June 2018
Interactive workshop to discuss the "Declaration of Tourism and Cultural Heritage" organised by several stakeholders (ETC, ECTN, NECSTouR and Europa Nostra) at the European Cultural Heritage Summit in Berlin, Germany
• 25-26 October 2018
ECTN conference in partnership with Europa Nostra and the ETC. Award ceremony for "Cultural Heritage as an Asset for Responsible and Sustainable Tourism" and the launch of the "Declaration of Tourism and Cultural Heritage" along with NECSTour in Pafos, Cyprus
• 5-6 November 2018
Presentation of the EU Member States expert group policy recommendations in Florence, Italy

Component 2: Natural heritage and Natura 2000

Sustainable conservation areas under the European network Natura 2000. Special European Year of Cultural Heritage-related activities include:

  • Evaluation of overlaps between Natura 2000 and cultural heritage areas and sharing of good practices and case studies on integrated management by the end of the year, as outlined in the 2017 European Commission “Action Plan for Nature, People and the Economy”.
  • Links with the Natura 2000 Awards, which recognise excellence in the management and conservation of Natura 2000 sites.
  • Other relevant activities in connection with the year such as the Green Week 2018’s sustainable cities theme and the European Green Capitals 2018.


• 17 May 2018
Natura 2000 Award Ceremony in Brussels, Belgium
• 21 May 2018
Natura 2000 Day
• 22 May 2018
International Day for Biodiversity
• 21-25 May 2018
EU Green Week, including events in Brussels and across Europe and EU Green Cities high-level conference on 22-24 May 2018 in Brussels, Belgium
• 5 June 2018
United Nation's World Environment Day
• June 2018
European Green Capital and European Green Leaf Awards Ceremony in Brussels, Belgium

Component 3: Promoting Europe’s cultural routes

Sustainable cultural routes are receiving a boost in 2018 through the following initiatives:

  • Cultural routes with the Council of Europe: 33 certified Cultural routes that invite the public to explore various themes of European history, landscape and heritage.
  • UNESCO World Heritage Journeys in the EU: this project aims to develop 4 trans-European Cultural Routes around World Heritage sites, highlighting a clear European dimension.
  • The Balkans itineraries: the European External Action Service is implementing the “Balkans Heritage Route”, which consists of several events connected to heritage in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia.

Component 4: Awarding excellence – European destination of excellence award

The 2017 edition of the Commission’s “European Destinations of Excellence” (EDEN) awarded 19 destinations for their excellence in tourism offers, based on cultural heritage assets. The EDEN awards promote sustainable tourism and draws attention to non-traditional, little-known European destinations that are off the beaten track. A total of 158 destinations from 27 participating countries have been awarded the EDEN prize since 2007.


• 22 March 2018
EDEN Award Ceremony in Brussels, Belgium
Throughout 2018
Valorisation of awarded sites

Component 5: European Capital of Smart Tourism awards

An award ceremony, taking place in November, granting 2 cities the title of European Capital of Smart Tourism in 2019. An additional 4 cities will receive the European Smart Tourism Award for their outstanding achievements in the individual categories (i.e. accessibility, digitalisation, sustainability and cultural heritage and creativity).


• 7 November 2018
Award ceremony of the European Capital of Smart Tourism in Brussels, Belgium




  • Within the European Commission, services dealing with tourism, environment and culture
  • The European External Action Service and EU Delegations in the Western Balkans
  • Council of Europe Cultural Routes Institute
  • European Cultural Tourism Network (ECTN)
  • Network of European Regions for Competitive and Sustainable Tourism (NECSTouR)
  • European Travel Commission (ETC)
  • EDEN Network Association
  • Member State authorities/agencies in charge of Natura 2000 management

Find out more

Find out more