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
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