In October 2009, the European Council adopted with the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) its first macro-regional strategy. Together with its underlying Action Plan, the strategy provides a comprehensive approach to bundle resources and to improve cooperation in the region. In March 2012, the strategy was revised and since then, is focused on three priorities, namely to
- save the sea,
- connect the region and to
- increase prosperity.
In the following, also the Action Plan was also updated. More detailed information on the EUSBSR is available here.
Already in the 2009 version of the Action Plan, tourism was considered to be a relevant area for the further development in the Baltic Sea region. With the update in February 2013, Priority Area Tourism became more visible in the Action Plan and its contribution to the cohesion in the region was recognized.
The tourism sector plays an important role in the European economy, with some 1.8 million enterprises employing approximately 9.7 million people. It accounts for five per cent of both employment and gross domestic product in the EU. Maritime and coastal tourism play a significant role. According to the statistics of the UNWTO, in 2012 the countries bordering the Baltic Sea had more than 100 million international tourist arrivals. The receipts from international tourism amounted to 69 billion Euro in that year, with an average annual growth rate of 5.9 % from 2005 to 2012. This figure is impressive but remains below the average global growth rate of 6.3 % p.a. It makes clear that the tourism sector is a growth sector, globally and in the Baltic Sea region. At the same time, it underlines the growing global competition which has to be met by the destinations in the Baltic Sea region.
Priority Area Tourism builds on the assumption that global competition can be met more effectively through cooperation by creating a joint umbrella for transnational activities in the fields of products, standards, marketing and communication. Priority Area Tourism primarily addresses the sub-objective “Improved global competitiveness of the Baltic Sea Region” and also contributes to the sub-objectives “Implementation of Europe 2020 Strategy” (both under the objective “Increase Prosperity”) and “Connecting people in the region”.
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, a leading tourism region in Germany, coordinates the activities in Priority Area Tourism. In this role, it relies on the close cooperation with committed partners from the Baltic Sea region and the services of European Commission. The mission statement provides more information on how Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has defined its role as coordinator. The overall objectives pursued in Priority Area Tourism are outlined in currently two actions that are implemented through flagship projects.