1. Tourism in context

Europe is the most visited region in the world. Europe reached 563 million international arrivals in 2018. Tourism plays an important role in generating growth and jobs. It is a very diverse sector with an estimated total contribution to EU's economy of about 10% of the EU-wide GDP.
One in seven enterprises in the European non-financial business economy belongs to the tourism industries. These 3,4 million enterprises often serve tourists as well as locals and employ an estimated 15,2 million persons. In some European countries, such as Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria, Slovenia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Sweden and  Estonia, total travel and tourism contribution to GDP is above 10% . These percentages are even higher in a number of EU regions.
Tourism is particularly significant in remote regions, including the remote islands, which are far from the economic centres of their country, where tourism-related services are often a prominent factor in securing employment and are one of the main sources of income for the local population.
Currently, the tourism sector is one of the most severely affected by the COVID-19 outbreak in terms of revenue and employment.  It is predicted that the decline of tourist arrivals in EU27 will reach at least 40%, thus putting around 10 million jobs at risk, in particular in the regions with an eco-system strongly dependent on the international tourism market.  

2. Direct ERDF support to tourism actions

Between 2015 and 2019 the direct allocations for 2014-2020 remained stable

The blue coloured bars represent SME related interventions, the yellow coloured bars represent public e-tourism and e-culture interventions while the green coloured bars represent other public tourism interventions.  

... and remained stable into 2020

Note that in 2020, during the initial response to the Coronavirus pandemic, there was a modest overall increase in planned EU allocations to dedicated tourism interventions.  However, there were important changes in the EU allocations to general business interventions, which can also benefits private tourism operators (see section 4 below and check the recent changes in overall enterprise support in Section 2.2 of the  CORONAVIRUS DASHBOARD).

... but with important differences in the interventions planned across countries.

In the period 2014-2020 the ERDF financial allocations to the different tourism related investment actions can be compared across countries in absolute share and relative importance. The chart below presents the relative shares of the planned amounts  allocated by the six tourism interventions. 

3. The progress implementing investment also varies by action and country 

Annually the Commission receives details on the financial progress in allocating financing to decided projects (project pipeline) and on expenditure by those projects. The chart below allows you to explore the data over time, by intervention and by country.  
Tips: Use the filter on the top right of the chart to filter by country and year to see implementation progress nationally across the interventions;  Click on the bars for on intervention to see the national composition and implementation and use the drill up / down button on the top left to reset the chart. 

4. Other (indirect) support to the tourism sector

The direct support to tourism actions identified above is not the only support given.
As many tourism operators are enterprises, they may also get support from ERDF innovation and business support measures.  Such support to tourism enterprises is not known in advance (no planned amounts) but is reported by programmes during implementation. 
The chart across, based on annual data, shows the decided support and expenditure to "tourism, accommodation and food services" mainly under business support and innovation headings (excluding the 6 direct tourism actions presented above to avoid double counting). 
The amounts shown are in total cost - over EUR 3.6 billion. With the average ERDF support around 70% the EU share is estimated at EUR 2.5 Billion.

5. What about progress in achieving tourism objectives? 

One common indicator is used under the ERDF to capture a common measure of the output of certain tourism projects.  The indicator is "CO09 - Increase in expected number of visits to supported sites of cultural or natural heritage and attractions", measured in visitors per year.  It is valid for site improvements that aim to attract and accept visitors for sustainable tourism, including sites with or without previous tourism activity (e.g. nature parks or buildings converted to museums, etc.,).  The common indicator does not capture all tourism outputs. Apart from this common indicator, programmes also use programme specific indicators (they cannot be aggregated).

The chart below shows the EU overview of changes in the target and progress over time. This data is updated annually. 
In aggregate we can see the following trends: 
  • The total target has been modified slightly by the end of 2019;
  • The expected output of decided projects significantly exceeds the target by end 2018; this suggests that programmes had difficulties estimating the targets initially without knowing the selected projects (NB CO09 was a novel indicator for 2014-2020). Also it is possible that some projects may overestimate the expected increase visitors. 
  • By end 2018, a modest 25% of the formal target had been implemented.  Significant project completion is required after 2018 to still secure the target. 
Tips: Use the filter on the top right of the chart to filter by country and programme to see implementation progress;  Click on the bars for one year to see the national composition and implementation and use the drill up / down button on the top left to reset the chart. 

Mont-Saint-Michel, FR targets ecotourism

The maritime nature of Mont-Saint Michel’s has been restored, with new emphasis placed upon the area’s architectural heritage and natural environment. Increased biodiversity, a focus on high-quality tourism and sustainable economic development are the priorities of this enormous project.

Green infrastructure investments give the tourism industry in Northern Poland a boost

New bicycle routes and waterways, riverside marinas and camping sites with all necessary sanitary facilities, tourism centres and parking – those are the results of an infrastructural project called “Bory Tucholskie - in the labyrinth of nature”. 

New recreational facilities improve tourism in two regions of Bulgaria, Serbia (Interreg)

Sports and amusement parks have been created and upgraded in the cities of Varshets, Bulgaria and Pirot, Serbia. These recreational sites have expanded the tourism offerings in the two areas, attracting adventure-seeking visitors with children and creating jobs. 

Aldeias Históricas de Portugal (AHP) – revitalising villages through education and business development

The key aspects in this regeneration strategy are the heritage and social and economic dimensions. It is based on urban and heritage regeneration initiatives and helping to create micro-businesses in the tourism sector. 

7. More Information 

For more news on ESI Funds open data follow @RegioEvaluation or check out #ESIFOpenData on twitter.
Contact: - Laurent de MERCEY