We can get tourism policy right — these three European cities show how it can be done


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not in any way represent the editorial position of Euronews.

Harnessing the power of travel, mitigating the drawbacks with smart policies, and making our world more tolerant and inclusive in the process – that is the vision I want to offer, says Peter Lochbeeler. I am writing.

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What do we know about travel? This doesn't just mean the joy of discovering new places, experiencing different cultures, and learning about the world.

What I want to explore is the impact that tourism and travel has on humanity, especially now that it has changed from the pursuit of choice of a few eccentric people to the favorite pastime of millions of people.

After working in this industry for eight years, there is one thing I can say with confidence. At its heart, travel is a force for good in the world, and for policymakers, tourism stimulates local employment, generates income, and at the same time increases levels of empathy across humanity.

And this is no mean feat in today's environment beset by geopolitical hardship, fragmentation, and financial instability.

No economic sector is immune to pitfalls and negative impacts, but in our industry they are manageable with a tailored combination of appropriate guardrails and policies. Here are three of my favorite case studies.

Paris and reducing air pollution

Paris, where travel and tourism contributes €33.5 billion to France's GDP, has been named the world's most powerful urban destination by WTTC in 2022.

But that's only half the story. In his 10 years since 2010 tourism receipts have increased by at least a quarter, and Paris has also managed to reduce air pollution by 50%.

I believe this transformative feat required a purposeful and collaborative effort by city officials, residents, visitors, and the hospitality industry, acting in concert.

Paris has managed to reduce car use by 40% in just 10 years and has embraced sustainability through initiatives such as street codes that promote green transportation.

The city demonstrated its commitment to pedestrian safety by implementing car-free zones around schools and doubling down on bike lanes. Currently, 1,120km of extensive cycle lanes have been constructed.

This major restructuring of urban transport has significantly reduced carbon emissions and improved the quality of life for Parisians and tourists alike.

affordable housing in vienna

Vienna's population is expected to reach 2 million people by 2027, making it one of the fastest growing cities in the EU. It is also a popular place for tourists.

In 2019, the benchmark for travel, Vienna recorded around 18 million night stays. Remarkably, four out of five visitors were from overseas.

It may seem obvious, but the travel and tourism industry is a major driver of export earnings for economies large and small. In the case of Austria, in the last representative year before the coronavirus (2019), this sector accounted for a whopping 39% of the total service exports of €53 billion.

However, the influx of new residents and visitors has created challenges, particularly in terms of housing supply and affordability. In response, Vienna offered a policy masterclass on public housing. This deserves the attention of mayors around the world.

Currently, about half of the city's residents live in municipal or subsidized housing.

Vienna city authorities set the city's rent levels and use for-profit organizations as a way to increase housing supply while keeping prices down. The rents these companies can charge are cost-based, resulting in a figure that is 30% lower than the market average.

Copenhagen: Waste management case study

Copenhagen's transformation over the past 30 years has been nothing short of astonishing, from a declining capital to a dynamic metropolis hailed as one of the best places to live.

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Copenhagen's population grew by 13% between 2010 and 2023, and Copenhagen now has an estimated population of 1.4 million people. The number of visitors grew even faster, increasing by 50% in less than 10 years, reaching a record 12.7 million night nights in 2019.

Amid this tremendous growth, Denmark had to deal with high levels of municipal waste per capita and there was a dire need to find more sustainable ways. The answer came in the form of the Circular Copenhagen initiative, which aims to recycle 70% of its waste by 2024.

Once again, innovative policymaking focused on synergies and the deployment of modern technology has made a difference.

Copenhagen addressed two problems with one solution by incinerating trash and generating electricity from it. Improved energy security while tackling waste management challenges.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. The city has declared its goal to become “the world's most sustainable destination.” Such a strategy is both good business and the right thing to do in an increasingly competitive global tourism environment.

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Chance to buy and eat your own cake

Mark Twain once quipped that travel was “deadly to bigotry, bigotry, and bigotry,” but in the 19th century, travel was not yet the driving force behind local economies.

In 2019, before the pandemic, 5% of the EU economy contributed directly to tourism, generating €572 billion of the region's total gross value added.

Our field is a unique and rare opportunity for tourism destination policy makers to have their cake and eat it too.

Every destination is different and requires a tailored tourism strategy, but when we work together and learn from each other, we are more powerful for good.

That's the vision I want to offer: harnessing the power of travel, mitigating the drawbacks with smart policies, and making our world more tolerant and inclusive in the process.

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Peter Lochbihler is Global Head of Communications at Booking.com.

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