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Since the mid-90s sustainable development of tourism has become a priority of EU Institutions. In its Communication "Working together for the future of European tourism", the European Commission proposed to further "promote sustainable development of tourism activities in Europe by defining and implementing Agenda 21". This issue received strong support from the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic, Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions.

The European Commission’s Communication: " Europe, the world's No 1 tourist destination – a new political framework for tourism in Europe" (2010) proposes more measures for strengthening the Community’s contribution to the sustainability of European tourism. In the face of the crisis and the increasing constraints on its activity, European tourism must evolve. This requires changes at all levels. The European Union must contribute to this and encourage a voluntary policy to speed up growth and create the conditions for making tourism more attractive.

Furthermore, sustainable tourism can particularly benefit from the approaches and instruments outlined in the European Commission Communication on integrating environmental issues with economic policy; the European Community Bio-diversity Strategy which includes guidance on the issue of developing sustainable tourism within protected areas and with low impact on Europe’s Natura 2000 sites. Finally the White Paper on "European transport policy for 2010: time to decide" and the EU policies on water and waste management which directly affect the tourism sector can help to promote the sustainability of tourism.





Facts and figures

Example 1
Sustainable Tourism: One goal for many actors

Tourism is the main sector of the global economy. Worldwide, it counts 1 billion international tourist arrivals by 2010 and more than 400 millions in EU. In EU, tourism is 5/7% of the GDP, (12% of the GDP, allied activities included) and it is among the sectors that count the best upward trends (annual 4,3%), with ever-growing pushes to the globalisation of the services and the whole value chain. As far as the consume of energy is concerned, tourism is very impacting, and places itself at the centre of a complex system linked to other problematic activities in terms of consumption and emissions (transports, agro-industry, energy, etc…), but it has large margins of improvement in the direction of eco-sustainability.
Europe is very attractive because of its history, nature, culture,  and will be still the main region of destination in global terms. The EC thinks that the sustainable tourism plays a major role in the preservation and enhancement of the cultural and natural heritage in an ever expanding number of areas. This led the EC and the tourism stakeholders to work for the elaboration of a European Agenda 21 for Tourism.

Example 2
Sustainable Tourism and Recreation as an Opportunity to Promote Alternative Mobility (STREAM project, 2009)
Because of its growing importance and its growing energy consumption, tourism and recreation related traffic is an important target for mobility management.

Bulgarian target region:     
21 Bulgarian Black Sea Municipalities with primary focus on the three biggest: Varna, Burgas and Dobrich
STREAM is a mobility management project aiming at promoting more energy efficient transport behavior through the development of new transport solutions and well targeted campaigning. It aims more specifically at traffic related to "soft" tourism and recreation, with the focus on open spaces, also using these sectors of transportation demand as an opportunity for awareness raising about sustainable mobility in general:

Stream Information Brochure “If you come to enjoy a natural environment, why not use also more "natural" means to travel?” or “If you cycle for leisure, why not try it out in everyday life?”
In order to support the sustainable evolution in the Black Sea tourist sector, the following measures were implemented for the Bulgarian target region:
 - Review of the municipal development plans and physical opportunities of the three pilot municipalities with regards to sustainable tourism traffic
- Brain-storming sessions on developing concrete alternative “green transport” solutions for the three pilot municipalities
- Development of alternative “green transport” routes for citizens and tourists for each of the 3 municipalities and dissemination of the model routes to all 21 municipalities.
-  Organization of public consultations
- Creation of a general dissemination campaign (national or regional) creating the link between “soft mobility” and “soft tourism” and putting forward the benefits of sustainable mobility in every day life
- Promotion of a “sustainable transport” promotion package for the international tourists, residing in the Bulgarian Black Sea region (distributed via the regional tour operators)
- promotion of sustainable transport solutions for recreational purposes to the large group of visitors of all relevant sites and to a broader regional and national public;
- demonstration of soft measures that can contribute to behavior change in leisure related trips
- tangible energy savings at the demonstration sites and reduction of emissions;

- direct increase of the environmental quality of the target area (noise reduction, reduction of emissions, reduction of congestion problems), and therefore increase of its recreational and tourist value