Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

European tourism legislation

European tourism legislation

European legislation affects all European citizens and businesses. Depending on the type of legislation, it can affect you directly (by its binding nature) and, in other cases, indirectly (with the recommendations or legislative trends that it marks).

The European Commission does not impose legislative trends, but it does shape them with a variety of legal procedures. It is therefore important to know the European legislative process and the types of legislation drawn up by the EU. In this way, you can understand different European tourism developments.

We will answer the following questions:

How is legislation developed in the EU?

EU countries have approved the treaties of the European Union. These establish:

  • the EU’s objectives
  • the regulation of its institutions
  • how they make the rules applicable in the whole of the EU

The main method used in the EU to create rules is called ordinary proceedings. In this type of procedure, the European Parliament (elected by European citizens) approves legislation together with the European Council (made up of the governments from the 28 EU countries).

The European Commission is the EU body that develops and implements legislation.

Among the legislative acts that the EU creates, the most important are regulations, directives and decisions. These directly or indirectly affect EU countries.

EU law consists of case law and jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the European Union, which interprets EU law.

For more information about the creation of European legislation, you can watch this animated guide: How it works: European laws.

What types of legislative acts exist?

Below you can see how the EU defines the different legislative acts that are created.


All the actions taken by the EU are based on treaties, which are voluntary and democratically approved by all EU countries.

The objectives of the EU treaties are achieved through various types of legislation, such as:

  • regulations
  • directives
  • recommendations
  • opinions

The Lisbon Treaty recognises tourism as a key sector for the EU economy.


A regulation is a binding legislative act. It should be applied throughout the EU. An example is the regulation on insurance for air carriers and operators, affecting airlines and aircraft operators in all European countries.


A directive is a legislative act which establishes an objective that all EU countries must comply with – but each country must decide individually how to do so.

When a country decides how it will comply with a directive, they transpose the directive into national legislation. An example of this is the directive on package travel, holidays and tours, crucial to the operation of travel agencies and the intermediary subsector.

As a tourism business you can use the time between the publishing of a directive and its passing into national law to get to know the legislative trends that will be applicable in your country. You can learn more about the directives and their implementation.


A decision is binding for those to whom it is addressed (one EU country or a particular company) and it is directly applicable. An example is the decision on the Community eco-label criteria.  


A recommendation is not binding and merely suggests how to act. An example is the recommendation on implementing rules on Chinese visas.


An opinion allows certain institutions to make non-binding declarations, i.e. without imposing legal obligations to the groups addressed. An example is the opinion on the political framework for European tourism.

What are the main policies on tourism in the EU?

Below are some directives which have a greater influence or impact on tourism industry regulation in the different EU countries.

Directive (EU) 2015/2302 on package travel and linked travel arrangements

This directive on package travel aims to regulate package holidays, which are defined as those that meet 2 conditions:

  • the overall service delivery should cover a period of more than 24 hours
  • they are sold at an inclusive price

As the internet became increasingly important in offering and selling travel services, many of these services were found in a legal ‘grey area’.

The directive therefore aimed to:

  • respond to the changes in traditional distribution chains
  • enhance transparency
  • increase legal certainty for travellers and traders

This directive and its national transpositions involved a change for consumers and also in the intermediary subsector.

Directive 2006/123/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2006 on services in the internal market

The objective of this directive on services in the single market is to eliminate the difficulties in establishing tourism activities and to streamline procedures for creating new companies.

As a result, authorisation schemes for certain hotels, restaurants and travel agencies have been abolished. A declaration of responsibility has replaced them.

This has led to the creation of the Points of Single Contact.

Directive 2011/24/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 March 2011 on the application of patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare

This directive on cross-border healthcare is intended to facilitate access to safe and high quality cross-border healthcare in the EU. This allows European citizens to choose the country where they want to be medically treated.

Directive 2008/122/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 January 2009 on the protection of consumers in respect of certain aspects of timeshare, long-term holiday product, resale and exchange contracts

This directive on timeshares and long-term holiday products aims to regulate aspects of timeshare properties and general tourism goods (enjoyment of cruises, caravans or barges). It also addresses ‘long-term holiday products’, i.e. those with a duration of over a year, split over various holidays.

Recommended reading

See an overview of the European legislation impacting tourism.

Find out more about the main aspects of European legislation, policies and activities.