Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

European tourism legislation

European tourism legislation

Types of 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.

How is legislation developed in the EU?

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

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

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

Which pieces of legislation concern 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

What does it do? This piece of legislation clarifies the law surrounding travel services sold online. It therefore regulates the sale of package holidays.

What has been the impact? The directive had three main impacts. It responds to the changes in traditional travel distribution chains, while enhancing transparency and increasing the legal certainty for travellers and traders. It involved a change for both consumers and 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

What does it do? 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.

What has been the impact? 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

What does it do? This directive on cross-border healthcare is intended to facilitate access to safe and high-quality cross-border healthcare in the EU.

What has been the impact? It allows European citizens to choose the country where they want to be medically treated.

Directive 2011/83/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2011 on consumer rights

What does it do? The Consumer Rights Directive aims to achieve a real business-to-consumer (B2C) internal market, with a high level of consumer protection and a competitive environment for businesses.

What has been the impact? It maintains a high level of consumer protection across the EU and has contributed to the proper functioning of the internal market, particularly concerning contracts concluded between consumers and traders.

Directive 2005/29/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 May 2011 concerning unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices in the internal market

What does it do? The Unfair Commercial Practices Directive aims to boost consumer confidence and make it easier for businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, to trade across borders. 

What has been the impact? It means that under EU rules, unfair commercial practices enable national enforcers to curb a broad range of unfair business practices. This includes untruthful information given to consumers, or aggressive marketing techniques designed to influence their choices.

Passenger rights

What does it do? Your passenger rights detail your rights when travelling in the EU.

What has been the impact? It means passengers who have experienced delays or cancellations by air, rail, ship or bus, can activate their rights and claim compensation.

Regulation (EC) Fairness in platform-to-business relations Platform-to-business trading practices

What does it do? The platform-to–business trading practices aim to promote fairness and transparency for business users of online intermediation services.

What has been the impact? There are now concrete actions on unfair contracts and trading practices in platform-to-business relations, which safeguards a fair, predictable, sustainable and trusted business environment in the online economy.

Regulation (EC) No 66/2010 on the EU Ecolabel

What does it do? The EU Ecolabel with the Tourism Accommodation Criteria is the only sign of environmental quality that is both certified by an independent organisation and valid throughout Europe. 

What has been the impact? The Ecolabel satisfies the tourism industry’s demand for more environmentally friendly resorts and accommodation. It helps tourism accommodations to implement measures that make their operation more environmentally friendly by setting technical, measurable criteria on specific aspects such as water and waste management, energy consumption, etc. The EU Ecolabel is well known by customers, therefore certified accommodations displaying the “green leaf” label get more visibility towards environmentally conscious customers.

How does EU legislation impact tourism?

A legislative act brings EU policy into law. Everything the EU does is reflective of the over-arching treaties, which are democratically approved by all EU countries.
The objectives of the EU treaties are achieved through various types of legislation.

Regulations

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

Directives

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. An example of this is the directive on directive on package travel, holidays and tours, crucial to the operation of travel agencies. Learn more about directives and their implementation.

Decisions

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 for tourism accomodation services.

Recommendations

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

Opinions

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

Useful resources

Further reading on legislation affecting tourism

Tutorials

  • Understanding tourism legislation 
    Learn about what tourism legislation is and what it encompasses, how it can affect you when creating and managing a tourism business, and how you can keep up to date with any changes in legislation.