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European strategy for coastal and maritime tourism

20 February 2014
by eub2 -- last modified 20 February 2014

The European Commission presented on 20 February a new strategy to support coastal and maritime tourism in Europe. Recognising the sector's potential for sustainable growth and job creation, the strategy outlines 14 EU actions to help coastal regions and businesses tackle the challenges they face and strengthen the sector's position as a key driver of Europe's blue economy. These concrete actions are accompanied by a break-down of the tasks that Member States, Regions and industry stakeholders can undertake to complement the EU actions.


What is coastal and maritime tourism?

Coastal tourism includes beach-based tourism and recreation activities (e.g. swimming, surfing, etc.), and other recreation activities in coastal areas (e.g. aquariums). Maritime tourism covers water-based activities (e.g. boating, yachting, cruising, nautical sports) and includes operations of landside facilities (chartering, manufacturing of equipment and services).

In geographical terms coastal areas are defined as those bordering the sea or having at least half of their territory within 10km of the coast. (1) Coastal and maritime tourism has been highlighted as one of the sectors with a high potential for growth and jobs in the EU's Blue Growth Strategy.

Why does the Commission focus on the coastal and maritime tourism sector?

Due to its economic weight and its direct and indirect impact on local and regional economies the Coastal and Maritime Tourism has a great potential for jobs and growth, particularly for remote regions with otherwise limited economic activities. However, coastal destinations face a number of challenges which affect its further development. Whilst any of these problems also affect other tourism activities, they are exacerbated in coastal and maritime tourism:

  • Fragmentation of the sector with a high proportion of SMEs
  • Limited or no access to finance
  • Lack of innovation and diversification
  • Increased worldwide competition
  • Volatility of demand and seasonality
  • Mismatch of skills and qualifications
  • Growing environmental pressures.

In 2010 the Commission, with the support of the Council and the European Parliament, launched the Communication "Europe, the world's No 1 tourist destination" which includes a reference to the need for developing a strategy on sustainable coastal and marine tourism. The 2012 Blue Growth Strategy (2) highlighted coastal and maritime tourism as one of the five focus areas in the 'blue economy' to drive jobs in coastal areas.

What does the Communication propose?

This Communication outlines the main challenges faced by the sector and presents a new strategy to address these challenges.

The Commission has identified 14 actions which can help the sector grow sustainably and provide added impetus to Europe's coastal regions. The Commission says it will work with Member States, regional and local authorities and the industry to implement these actions.

For example, the Commission proposes to:

  • Develop an online guide to the main funding opportunities available for the sector (particularly SMEs).
  • Promote a pan-European dialogue between cruise operators, ports and coastal tourism stakeholders.
  • Develop a coastal and maritime focus, where appropriate, in EU tourism initiatives, including promotional and communication campaigns.
  • Support the development of trans-national and interregional partnerships, networks (3), clusters and smart specialisation strategies.
  • Stimulate innovative management schemes through the ICT (4) and the Tourism business portal.
  • Seek to improve data availability and completeness in the coastal and maritime tourism sector.
  • Promote ecotourism and encourage linking to other sustainability actions.
  • Promote strategies on waste prevention, management and marine litter to support sustainable coastal and maritime tourism.
  • Undertake research to understand how to improve island connectivity, and design innovative tourism strategies for (remote) islands accordingly.
  • Identify innovative practices for marina development through a specific study.

What are the Member States, stakeholders, and regional and local authorities expected to do?

The proposed strategy framework offers a coherent response to the challenges facing the sector by complementing and adding value to existing initiatives by Member States, regions and other stakeholders.

Member States, who have the primary competence on tourism, are invited to develop and implement national and regional strategies, make use of the available funds, and exchange best practice.

The strategy seeks to promote transnational and inter-regional partnerships, dialogue and cooperation, whilst building coastal and maritime tourism issues into existing programmes and policies.

The industry and stakeholders are invited to develop new business models as well as innovative and diversified products to strengthen the sector's response capacity and growth potential. The proposed actions also aim to enhance the accessibility, connectivity and visibility of the tourism offer and to promote sustainability by curbing the environmental impact of tourism activities.

What is the economic importance of coastal and maritime tourism?

It is the largest sub-sector of tourism, the largest single maritime economic activity and the key economic driver in many coastal regions and islands in Europe. It employs almost 3.2 million people; generating a total of € 183 billion for EU's GDP (2011 figures for 22 EU Member States with a coast, without Croatia).

Almost one third of all tourism activity in Europe takes place in coastal regions, and around 51 % of bed capacity in hotels across Europe is concentrated in regions with a sea border.

In 2012, cruise tourism alone generated a direct turnover of €15.5 billion and employed 330,000 people whilst European ports had 29.3 million passenger visits. Over the past 10 years, the demand for cruising has roughly doubled worldwide whilst the cruise industry grew in Europe by more than 10% each year.

In 2012, the boating industry (boat builders, equipment manufacturers for boats and water sports, trade & services such as chartering) was made up more than 32,000 companies in Europe (EU not including Croatia, European Economic Area and Switzerland), representing 280,000 direct jobs.



North Sea



Black Sea


Total GVA







coastal tourism






130 a)

cruise tourism







yachting and marinas







Total employment







coastal tourism






2,507 a)

cruise tourism







yachting and marinas







Total gross added value (GVA, in billions) and employment (x 1000) in coastal and maritime tourism in EU 2011 (exc. Croatia).

Tourism is a growing business, and Europe is the world's no1 tourism destination. There were 534 million tourist arrivals in Europe in 2012, up 17 million from 2011 (52 % of arrivals worldwide) whilst revenue reached EUR 356 billion (43% of the world total). (5)

International arrivals in Europe (millions)

International arrivals in Europe (millions) (6)

How can this strategy contribute to achieving the EU 2020 targets?

The development of coastal and maritime tourism contributes to achieving EU2020 targets in several ways:

  • The strategy can help the sector fulfil its potential as a driver for growth and job creation, in particular for young people and in particular in coastal regions.
  • The assessment of the professional skills and qualification in the industry will provide a better overview of the sector's needs and will help focus training and education to create a more mobile and qualified workforce;
  • By promoting ecotourism and waste prevention the strategy can help the sector reduce its environmental impact

Coastal tourism webpage on Directorate General Maritime Affairs website


1 : As defined by Eurostat.

2 : COM(2012) 494, 13.09.2012

3 : E.g. the Enterprise Europe Network A study on the perspectives for clustering in the Mediterranean has been launched in autumn 2013.

4 : Concrete available ICT tools include, for example, the Virtual Tourism observatory; Tourism Link Platform

5 : UNWTO Annual Report 2012

6 : Source: UNWTO (Tourism 2020 Vision). Data available for overall tourists not just coastal regions.

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