For several years now, the concern of politicians and citizens for environmental issues has been growing: consumption, mobility, and particularly in the tourism sector, which must now take into account climate change and propose sustainable solutions.
The World Tourism Organization (WTO) recognizes sustainable tourism as “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities”.
1. The tourism sector in constant evolution
If the sector has to change its practices and allow tourists to travel “better”, it must also be able to guarantee the competitiveness of companies. The WTO definition clearly defines three pillars: the economy, social and environment, all interdependent, to ensure the sustainability of tourism.
The latter is a major driver of countries’ economies, particularly in Europe, the world’s leading destination in 2018. This is why it is necessary to support companies in the adoption of sustainable management solutions and adaptation to trends, to train professionals, to test innovative models and to strengthen intersectoral cooperation.
2. What about European support?
The European Union is supporting this change by setting up tools such as the Tourism Business Portal, an Internet portal aimed at deploying relevant information to SMEs in the tourism sector, but also by providing substantial financial support. Projects can be financed through many programmes. Horizon 2020 for innovation projects, the European Regional Development Fund, for energy renovation projects, Life + for the protection of natural areas, Erasmus +, etc. Through this wide range of funds, the EU shows its willingness to support a large number of different types of actions. Thus, the following projects have already been funded: the Eurovélo European cycle route network, the European Tourism Indicators System (ETIS), the annual European Destination of Excellence (EDEN) competitions, etc.
Currently, it is under the COSME funding programme that the Commission is offering its financial assistance. Indeed, until October, 24th, eligible project leaders (public authorities, NGOs, IOs, SMEs, CCIs, training institutions, etc.) may apply for a grant of €1 million. The objective of this call for projects is to develop sustainable tourism, as well as the skills and competitiveness of tourism SMEs through transnational cooperation.
The Union has been working to finance the development of “green” tourism for several decades, a concern in the spirit of the times, but does not forget the economic branch of the sector, which is fundamental to the European economy.
Finally, does the EU finance projects out of ecological awareness or to guarantee its competitiveness?
In both cases, it will have to increase its aid in view of the number of tourists in the world, up 6% in 2018: 1.4 billion people spent at least one night in a foreign country.