Tourism in EU: vital socio-economic sector facing modern challenges

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Perspective tourism and travel has to follow three main directions: be resilient, digital and sustainable; however, not all EU member states ready for such challenges. In June 2022, the Commission prepared an analysis of key figures and trends in European tourism, as well as existing and perspective ICT and digital tools in modern tourism’s triangle transition. 

Tourism is the most vulnerable and –at the same time – quite dynamic socio-economic sector in Europe and around the world. However, numerous issues are presently on the tables of governance officials, such as optimal trends in tourism and travel in post-pandemic time, competitive tourism facilities in the states, the role of ICTs and digital technologies in addressing some tourism’s challenges in post-pandemic, as well as survival of tourist’s SMEs in a global and European context in presently rapidly-evolving sector.
More in the discussions at hybrid event in Brussels organised by

Another recent event, “Travel and Tourism in Transformation” was organised by the World Economic Forum, this June with participation from World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), which explored new practices, solutions and policies expected to ensure that travel and tourism sector could preserve their basic facilities and reinstate their vital contribution to European inclusive socio-economic development, cultural exchange and job creation.

Vital aspects in travel and tourism
Tourism is part of the EU’s cross-sectoral policy (uniting 18 sectors in European socio-economic development) in a complex Commission’s division called “Internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and SMEs”. The European tourism sector has been facing a number of challenges, and at the same time it is slowly recovering from the impact of the global pandemic. As a key sector of the European economy, the tourism sector must become greener, master the digital transformation and increase its resilience in order to continue being a driver of growth and jobs in post-pandemic period.
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The World Economic Forum’s Intelligence Unit has elaborated a scheme resembling complex interrelations among travel and tourism sectors revealing the following eight most important components in travel and tourism sectors:
1. Travel governance and regulation issues: this “tourism component” includes aerospace and leadership, corporate, global and agile governance and geo-economics.
2. Digitalisation in travel and tourism. The following issues are included: Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), digital governance and digital economy; virtual and augmented reality’s facilities, and digital communications.
3. Travel and trade barriers: with such issues as risk and resilience, migration and post- pandemic effects, trade and investment, climate change and post-pandemic preparedness and response, as well as civil participation, geopolitics and taxes.
4. Travel and tourism workforce, with such issues as education, skills and learning, ageing population and longevity, youth aspirations and enjoyment perspectives, as well as gender equality, behavioral sciences, national workforce and employment policies, rental facilities, whole sale and retail.
5. Travel security and risk resilience, including e.g. blockchain, health and healthcare issues, insurance, international and cybersecurity problems.
6. Travel and tourism infrastructure, including real estate, peoples’ mobility and global supply chains, cities’ infrastructure and urbanization policies.
7. Travel and tourism sustainability. As a new aspect in tourism, it includes such aspects as water quality and oceans, global biology and subsistence, plastics and natural environment, consumer goods and preferences, tourism’s “lifestyles”, climate indicators; national sustainable development programs, electricity and air pollution, oil and gas, future of the environment and EU’s “green deal”.
8. Shifts in travel demographics: this vital issue includes such regions as East Asia and China, Middle East and North Africa, Arctic and Antarctic, as well as emerging-market multinationals in tourism.
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Tourism in a post-pandemic and sustainable Europe European tourism sector is an important driver of employment and growth, accounting for about 10 percent of EU’s GDP in the pre-pandemic period. However, after about six years of uninterrupted growth in Europe, the tourism sector was brought to a near complete standstill by the global pandemic. Presently, tourism sector is slowly moving from “survival-to-recovery” while trying to mange numerous modern global challenges and European/global socio-political uncertainties.
Hence, two main tasks emerge for the EU’s tourism and travel: mastering the ICT-digital transition and responding to constantly evolving consumer demands. As an important sector of EU’s socio-economic development, it has to master smart, resilient and competitive tourism industry.
As recently as 2019, the travel and tourism industry accounted for an estimated one in ten jobs worldwide and about 10 percent of global GDP. However, the pandemic’s spread in 2020-21 resulted in the worst years in tourism history: international arrivals declined by 74%, putting as many as 120 million tourism-related jobs at risk; a slow rebound is anticipated at 2022.

Note. On, founded in 1996 in Amsterdam has grown from a small Dutch startup to one of the world’s leading digital travel companies. mission is to make it easier for everyone to experience the world by investing in the technology that helps to connect millions of travelers with a range of transportation options and places to stay: from homes to hotels, etc. As one of the world’s largest travel marketplaces, enables properties all over the world to reach a global audience and grow their businesses. is available in 44 languages and offers more than 27 million total reported accommodation listings, including more than 6.3 million listings of homes, apartments and other places to stay.
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EU cohesion policy for tourism
Cohesion policy funding is aimed at guiding the EU member states on the path to sustainable growth, greener and digital transition, as well as towards more innovative and socially more cohesive communities. Important as well are citizens and local stakeholders’ involvement in the implementation of the EU’s cohesion investments in order to fully reap the benefits of cohesion policy funding. For example, newly adopted Partnership Agreement with Lithuania is laying down the country’s €6.4 billion investment strategy in cohesion policy funding for the period 2021-2027; a serious part of it is to be devoted to tourism’s infrastructure.
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As to Latvia, in June 2021, with the help of ‘Found Latvia’ project nearly 60 natural and cultural treasures in 40 of the country’s 110 municipalities have been restored, including castles, churches, museums, parks and nature trails. Selection of natural/cultural development plans for each site was based on the sites’ international and national impacts, as well as their links with existing municipal activities. A special website was created during the project’s development providing sufficient information on each site. In this website the tourists’ sites were grouped into seven ‘roads’, including ‘The Baltic way’, ‘The path of light’ and ‘Daugava road’.
A game running until 5 September encourages people to explore them by awarding points for each visit. Work on all the attractions is expected to be completed by the end of 2022 with the ERDF’s provisional funding of about €35 million.

Enhancing European tourism
Presently, there are the following main “sectors” in the European tourism: – coastal and maritime tourism, – cultural and “accessible” tourism, – tourism for seniors, as well as – low-season tourism (e.g. seniors and young people are groups that can travel easily during the low season; reinforcing their contribution to tourism could help overcome the challenge of seasonality and contribute to growth and employment); a common denominator in all these sectors is sustainable component in tourists’ services.
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The competitiveness of the European tourism industry is closely linked to its sustainability; in order to encourage sustainable tourism, the Commission assist the member states in the following way: – co-funding s sustainable transnational tourism products that can contribute to tourism growth; – developing a European Tourism Indicators System (ETIS) for most attractive destinations; ETIS is a management tool which helps “destinations” to monitor, measure and enhance their sustainability performance; and – supported successful campaigns to develop cycling routes among the EU member states, as a successful example of sustainable tourism.

See: Note: there is a specific EU website concerning funding for tourist’s activities in:; probably, most widely used is the ESF+ fund with a total budget of over €99 billion aimed at investing creating and protecting job opportunities, promoting social inclusion, combating poverty and developing skills needed for the digital and green transition.

Cultural tourism
This type of tourism activity represents a great opportunity to revealing to all parts of the world the European cultural, art and architectural heritage; the Commission strives to promote Europe as a ‘unique tourism destination’. Thus, the Commission works with other international organisations on funding cultural routes, promoting cultural tourism projects and organising annual “Crossroads of Europe conference”.
The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) strengthens Europe’s ability to innovate by powering solutions to pressing global challenges and by nurturing entrepreneurial spirit and talents to create sustainable growth and skilled jobs in Europe. The EIT is an EU body and an integral part of Horizon Europe, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.
The EIT supports dynamic pan-European partnerships, so called EIT Knowledge and Innovation Communities, composed of leading companies, research labs and universities each dedicated to solving a pressing global challenge: e.g. from climate change to health, to renewable energy, to sustainable transport and tourism. Together with its partners, the EIT offers: a) Entrepreneurial education degrees and courses across Europe that transform students into entrepreneurs, e.g. by helping to introduce “coding” to young women and girls, supported by EIT Digital; b) Business creation and acceleration services that take ideas and budding businesses to the next level in manufacturing the world’s greenest lithium-ion batteries, and c) Innovation driven research projects that turn ideas into products connecting partners, investors and expertise in such spheres as artificial intelligence system to improve health care systems and management for children and elderly, supported by EIT Health.
The idea is to unlock the innovation potential of the cultural-creative sectors and industries while contributing to their sustainable growth and recovery in post-pandemic years. This new pan-European partnership will bring key players in the field of education, research and business, travel and tourism, etc. providing European development with well-trained professionals and innovative entrepreneurs.
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