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Culture and Creativity

Sustainable cultural tourism

Culture is both a driver and an enabler of sustainable development.

Europe’s cultural heritage is a valuable resource in the fields of tourism, education, employment and sustainable development. Sustainable cultural tourism is a vital part of regional and macro-regional development strategies. In this regard, culture is both a driver and an enabler of sustainable development.

Tourism: the balance between development and the protection of cultural heritage

Tourism is an excellent way to encourage and provide access to cultural heritage, but it also brings with it challenges related to overcrowding, cultural appropriation and the loss of authenticity. Tourism brings money and jobs to cities and regions, but it can also damage residents’ day-to-day lives, as well as the area’s culture and heritage.

Given the possible negative effects of over-tourism and its impact on cultural heritage, some local communities and heritage experts have at times opposed tourism and its associated development.

Sustainable cultural tourism offers a new perspective, as it places cultural heritage and local communities at the centre of decision-making processes.

Involving local communities and other stakeholders in the decision-making processes is key to ensuring results benefit both cultural heritage and the local population. The objective of sustainable cultural tourism is to ensure good conservation practices along with authentic interpretation that supports the local economy.

Find out more about what the European Commission is doing to encourage sustainable cultural tourism.

Sustainable cultural tourism Open Method of Coordination working group

The Work Plan for Culture adopted by EU Member States for the period 2015-2018 included a working group composed of European experts on sustainable cultural tourism under the Open Method of Coordination approach.

The resulting report includes the first definition of sustainable cultural tourism, as well as recommendations and guidelines for policymakers and 27 case studies illustrating best practices in both tangible and intangible cultural heritage.

Read the Sustainable cultural tourism report.

Selected projects

SPOT project

Funded under the Horizon 2020 programme, this project aims to develop a new approach to understanding and addressing cultural tourism and to promote the development of disadvantaged areas.

Find out more about the SPOT project.


Funded under Horizon 2020, this project supports development in European regions with important cultural assets, both tangible and intangible, through sustainable cultural tourism.

Find out more about SmartCulTour.


Funded under Horizon 2020, this project connects cultural tourism stakeholders and researchers who have new approaches and methods to support European cultural tourism. The aim of the project is to reinforce a feeling of belonging and to value minority cultures.

Find out more about the IMPACTOUR project.

The European Destinations of Excellence (EDEN)

EDEN promotes models of sustainable tourism across the EU. Through this initiative, partnering countries select and promote “destinations of excellence”.

EDEN draws attention to emerging, non-traditional European destinations, highlighting their values and character. It also works as a platform for sharing good practices between awarded destinations. The European Commission and the National Tourism Bodies choose a theme every year. Cultural tourism was the EDEN theme in 2017.

Discover the winning destinations on the EDEN website.