Tourism Sector – Key Element for Economic Growth

Tourism Sector – Growing economic importance

As the third-biggest economic activity in Europe in terms of turnover and number of employees, the tourism sector is truly of strategic importance for Europe’s economy, thanks to its capacity to generate growth and employment.

The EU – with its rich and diverse history, culture and natural beauty – is the world’s foremost tourist destination, and amongst the world’s top ten destinations are six EU Member States. Each year, nearly 400 million international arrivals – or more than two-fifths of the global figure – touches down in one of the EU’s 27 Member States. In addition, EU residents make nearly 1 billion holiday trips annually, with three-quarters of these to a destination within their own country.

European Tourism Sector – Key figures:

  • 1.8 million companies, many of them SMEs
  • 5% of the Union’s GDP and employment, a figure that rises to 10% if all of the related sectors are taken into account.
  • 12 to 14 million jobs, a workforce representing 5.2% of the entire working population of the EU (a figure that rises to 12% if ancillary businesses are included).
  • growth in employment in the tourism sector has, over the past decade, generally been greater than in the wider economy


It must also be stressed that tourism plays a key role in promoting development and social and economic integration in rural, outlying or slow-growing regions.

It is also important not to underestimate the extent to which tourism – developed sustainably – provides local economies with a lasting source of income and stable employment while enabling them to safeguard and capitalise on landscape, cultural, historical and environmental resources.

A New Legal Framework

Over the years, the European Union has been able to lay the foundations for a European tourism policy, stressing those factors which determine its competitiveness while taking account of the need for sustainable development.  With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the importance of tourism is recognised; the European Union now has powers in this field to support, coordinate and complement action by the Member States. It is a step forward which provides the necessary clarification and enables the setting up of a coherent framework for action.

Danube Alliance Magazine No. 3 – June-September 2011

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