Promoting tourism in the EU: traveling the continent in peace and quiet

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Written By Maya Cantina

The European Regional Development Fund shapes the tourist face of Europe. Sustainable travel can equalize the flow of holidaymakers.

Two cyclists in vineyards

Limitless mobility: cycling on the Iron Curtain Route near Haugsdorf in Austria Photo: Daniel Gollner/ap/picture alliance

BERLIN taz | Travel throughout Europe with the 49 euro ticket. A dream that would undoubtedly contribute to sustainable tourism in Europe, to equalizing the tourist flows that have been destroying and emptying many destinations for a long time. The condition would be the technical conformity of the European railway systems, ensuring a continuous connection without the need to change machines; a uniform ticket sales system for travel agencies and individual travelers and the linking of various forms of ‘down-to-earth’ travel by train, ship and bus, as well as the promotion of night trains.

In addition to this European utopia, many approaches to promoting sustainable tourism already exist in the EU. In particular, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) is one of the most important financing instruments for the development of tourism in the EU. It aims to help reduce disparities in the level of development between the different regions of the Union and improve living conditions in the structurally weakest regions. The European Union’s regional and structural policy is the area on which the EU spends the most money. Tourism policy is an instrument through which the EU can achieve the overall objectives of employment and growth policy.

And there already exists a dense jungle of networks and projects for sustainable tourism in Europe. This includes the European cultural routes and pilgrimage routes, but also the European cycle paths. The first European Cultural Route declared by the Council of Europe was a success. It was the Spanish Way of St. James, Camino de Santiago. In 1987, when the cultural routes were created, almost no one knew this medieval route. UNESCO declared the Camino de Santiago a World Heritage Site in 1992.

The second cultural route from 1991 had different emphases: it focused on the history of free trade, coexistence and civil protection in the maritime trading countries of Northern Europe: the Hanseatic League. This cultural route, especially along the Baltic Sea, is reminiscent of the association of seafaring merchants between the 13th and 17th centuries, which once included 225 towns. A kind of medieval EU.

On the trail of industrialization

Another gigantic project is the European Route of Industrial Heritage (cultural route since 2019). Their network has 26 member states, each of which unites visitors and interested parties in different ways Access to 200 years of European industrialization offer.

After the end of the East-West conflict, people could think differently about Europe. The Iron Curtain Route originated: About 10,000 kilometers of cycle path along the former Warsaw Pact border. It was declared a cultural route in 2019 and co-financed by the EU. All 17 European long-distance cycling routes of EuroVelo are well developed and form a European cycling infrastructure.

The cultural routes of the Council of Europe are perhaps the most beautiful program in the difficult process of European unification after the Second World War. At the time, the broken pieces had to be cleaned up. The Council of Europe was a basic element for this; he made the decisive decisions regarding the rule of law and democracy, human rights and transnationality, and therefore stood for the norms for shaping a future Europe. A “Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage in Society” (Faro Declaration) in 2005 particularly emphasized and codified the importance of cultural heritage as a resource for social progress and sustainable development.

Europe’s long-distance hiking trails lead through national parks and rural areas, away from busy traffic routes, and can sometimes make you forget how densely populated this continent is. The E1 for example. It includes all European climate zones. If you start at the Arctic Circle, you reach halfway to Germany. Crossing the Alps on the St. Gotthard Route is a perennial hit among mountain enthusiasts. And the long road through Italy ends at the southern border of Europe, in Sicily.

The taz travel guide ‘Europe for the stubborn’, 2023, 271 pages, 24 euros, presents sustainable travel destinations in Europe.

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