About this Publication
Foreword
Europe
The European Union
Destinations
Table: core set of indicators
Eco-labelling tourism
The tourism market
The VISIT approach
The VISIT Standard
The VISIT eco-labels
The VISIT message
Easy access to eco-labelled products
The VISIT Association
Outlook 2010
Word of thanks

 

Europe - The world’s leading tourism destination

The rich diversity

Fifty percent of international tourism takes place in Europe. Its coasts, mountains, beaches, lakes, cities and towns are the most frequented desti­nations in the world. Europe offers hundreds of thousands of indoor and outdoor sport and ­leisure facilities and an endless list of summer and winter tour packages. Tourism and travel is one of Europe’s biggest and most rapidly expanding industries, and this is expected to double over the next decade.
European tourism can trace its roots back more than two centuries to the growth of spa resorts catering to the wealthy and middle classes. Today Europe can claim to combine a rich diversity of cultures, languages, landscapes, nature, climatic zones, people, lifestyles and social values, together with a high standard of living, an excellent infrastructure and an expansion of leisure time.

This growing interest in visiting cultural, heri­tage and natural sites has grown in parallel to an increasing concern for the environment by consumers and host populations. Europe has, for instance, some half million accommodation providers that both impact on the environment, yet depend directly on the quality of their natural surroundings for their success. 95% of these businesses are micro or small enterprises with less than fifty employees. Yet, because they are dependent on their natural location, many of them are very active and innovative in minimising their environmental impact and preserving their environment.

The challenge of sustainability

Although the rapid expansion of tourism in Europe has increased environmental threats, the parallel acceleration of technical and management solutions to environmental problems has created better market opportunities for sustainable products. One of the challenges is to ensure that the more sustainable products are easily re­cognised and offered, enabling the consumer to make the “green” choice. It is here that tourism certification programmes can play a vital role. The dual function of these voluntary initiatives is to direct travellers to environmentally and socially responsible tourism businesses and to encourage improvements and set standards within the tou­r­ism industry.