Sustainable Tourism

About the partnership

This Partnership focuses on the specific issues related to tourism in cities as a crucial component of a sustainable development of the urban economies. It is based on a working definition of sustainable tourism and aims to use a method of collaborative, “co-creation” process, followed by an “co-implementation” phase, as described in the Transition Pathway for Tourism.

The ex-ante assessment, also based on the consideration of the post-pandemic resurgence of urban tourism, confirmed a positive evaluation on the opportunity for such a Partnership. The new Thematic Partnership was established within a complex policy scenario characterized by a method of collaborative, “co-creation” process, to be followed by an equally collaborative “co-implementation” phase, as described in the European Commission’s 2022 document on the Transition Pathway for Tourism.

A multi-level governance approach appears to be necessary to tackle the multiple issues of sustainable urban tourism and this is confirmed by bottom-up instances of collaboration among a variety of actors (such as the networks of cities). A need also emerges for greater inclusivity especially with regard to small and medium size cities.

This theme is aligned with the strategic priorities of the EU emerging in the time of the post-pandemic recovery. More specifically urban tourism is engaged by several “green deal” strategies and related targets. Concerning the contribution of tourism to local socio-economic development, the competitive sustainability approach has been integral to the EU tourism policy for years. Significant inputs for the tourism industry will come from the New European Urban Mobility Framework, the programme Creative Europe 2021-2027, and the short-term rental initiative launched in 2021. Tourism-related issues are dealt with in various programmes within the urban policies at EU level, such as the Urban Innovative Actions initiative and will be among the topics of the new European Urban Initiative.

With regard to the regulatory environment, a number of legislative initiatives will characterise the green transition of tourism in the years ahead. Regulatory efforts are to be expected also in other areas impacting on urban tourism, namely multimodal travelling and digital interoperability. The industry will certainly be affected by two important forthcoming acts such as the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act.

With regards to trends and evidence about EU cities, emerging issues concern the use of land and of public spaces, the excessive specialisation in tourism of some territories, product innovation, and the new entrepreneurship and tech start-ups. A major and cross-cutting issue concerns the availability and appropriate use of data.

Thematic focus

The new Thematic Partnership is based on a working definition of sustainable tourism, following the recital 27 of the Regulation (EU) 2021/1058 on the European Regional Development Fund and on the Cohesion Fund:

“Sustainable tourism requires a balance between economic, social, cultural, and environmental sustainability. The approach to supporting sustainable tourism should be in accordance with the Commission Communication ‘Agenda for a sustainable and competitive European tourism’. In particular, it should take into account the welfare of tourists, respect the natural and cultural environment and ensure the socio-economic development and competitiveness of destinations and businesses through an integrated and holistic policy approach.”

The new Thematic Partnership focuses on the specific issues related to tourism in cities as a crucial component of a sustainable development of the urban economies.

The new Thematic Partnership also builds on the results of previous Thematic Partnerships on Digital transition, on Housing, on Urban Mobility, on Jobs and skills in the local economy and on Culture and Cultural heritage. The new Thematic Partnership may follow up the work of previous Partnerships, e.g., by expanding its scope and /or realising pilot implementation but will not overlap it.

The following tables provide a tentative and non-exhaustive list of potential issues that may be the object of the Partnership’s thematic focus.

T able 1 S u b - th em e s a n d i s su e s r e late d t o s u sta i n able urba n t ou r ism Sub - themes Issues Environment The environmental impact of the tourism industry in cities T he r e du c t i o n o f e n v i r o n m en t a l f oo t p r i n t Climate change Land u s e Circular economy G ood p r a c t i c e s ; c e rt i f i c a t i o n s Planning and design of sustainable tourism Development The contribution of tourism to urban socio - e c o n o m i c development Vulnerability and resilience Post - p and e m i c c h ang e s i n t o u r i s m m a r k e t s ; d i v e r s i f i c a t i on o f t o u r i sm p r od u c t s ; s e a s o na l i ty Renovation of tourist infrastructures and physical assets M on o - functional areas M ob ili t y ( g r een m o b il i t y , m u l t i m od a li t y , i n t e r m od a li t y , s ha r e d m o b ili t y ) Small and m e d i u m - s i z ed c i t i e s Culture and creativity Alternative hospitality; short - term rentals Smart cities, smart destinations, digital services Labou r , g r e en s u s t a i n ab l e l ab ou r, u p - an d re - s k i lli n g , e n tr e p r eneu r s h i p Digitalisation of tourist services Accessibility T ou r i s m f o r a l l Social inclusion Social innovation Unbalanced growth The congestion of tourism flows in cities (overtourism) Redistribution of flows T he l i m i t s t o g r o w t h T he im p a c t o f c r u i s e p o r ts T he p o l i c y t oo l bo x ; good p r a c t i c e s Product innovation for urban travellers