Europe is the number one tourist destination in the world. The tourism sector comprises around 2 million enterprises and employs 10 million people, which is 5.2% of the working population. It furthermore generates 5% of the EU’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Therefore the EU’s tourism policy pursues important objectives concerning economic growth and the creation of new jobs. However, this policy is linked to the equally important area of environmental protection and sustainability, given that economic growth in this sector is likely to be very high. Moreover, the increasing number of tourists lead to the need of defining and implementing an appropriate framework for the protection of both nature and landscape. This is why “sustainable”, responsible and ethical tourism has gained more importance. The EU’s policy in the field of tourism is primarily defined in the Commission's communication, which was adopted in 2010 and holds the title “Europe, the world's no. 1 tourist destination – a new political framework for tourism in Europe”. The Communication focuses on four key areas:
• foster competitiveness in the tourism sector;
• promote the development of sustainable, responsible and high quality tourism;
• consolidate the image of Europe as a sustainable and high quality destination;
• Maximise the impact of financial policies and instruments for the purpose of developing tourism in the EU.
Although no specific financial instrument has been outlined in the multiannual financial framework 2014-2020 yet, the European Union is committed to support investment in tourism with the cohesion policy, structural funds as well as funding programmes.