|Batavia Stad, Flevoland, the Netherlands|
These activities are only a small portion of what Europe has to offer its domestic and international visitors. In fact, its diversity in art, landscapes, food and traditions have all helped make it the world's top tourist destination. From Bucharest to Lisbon, Europe's great variety in terms of scenery, services, cultures and people is unrivalled.
And the economic return from the tourism sector speaks for itself: prior to the accession of Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia, tourism accounted for 13 per cent of the EU's GDP. Nowadays, tourism represents 10 per cent of the European economy. The tourism sector employs approximately 5.2 per cent of the total workforce - roughly 10 million jobs - and involves almost two million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Yet while the tourism sector provides many opportunities to Europe, it is also faced with many challenges. These are mainly related to changes in global trends and increasing competition with non-European countries, particularly in Asia and North America.
In this context, I would like to point out that members of parliament's European tourism development, cultural heritage, way of St James and other European cultural routes intergroup - which I co-chair - is actively pushing for the revision and update of the commission's 2010 communication titled, 'Europe, the world's number one tourist destination'.
In order for us to achieve our goals, we must ensure that the European tourism sector and its actors receive the attention they deserve. In my opinion, one way to give the sector the boost it needs is by designating a 'European year for tourism'.
Read more: The tourism industry is 'make or break' for the EU economy | The Parliament Magazine