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In over 20 years, ETOA has achieved a level of authority and expertise in the tour operator and incoming European tourism sector

Market Development Policies

Origin markets and market sector development

E-tourism and digital trading


E-commerce and online marketing have transformed the travel and tourism business.  Services provided online have changed consumer and business behaviour in a way that, inevitably perhaps, has overtaken regulation.  A significant part of sector growth has been in e-travel. Online intermediaries see ETOA’s membership as an opportunity, and have become valued members themselves. Selling services online in a way that currently avoids the terms of the package travel directive (either through selling single services priced separately or by being established outside the EU) provides a competitive advantage that adversely affects EU tour operators. ‘Best available rates’ have recently become the subject of legislative scrutiny.

Online commerce and marketing continue to grow. Most traditional operators have a presence and can sell online.  There is no clear cut divide within the sector, though some companies specialise in services that are only available online – for example, vertical search for products and services. There should be a level regulatory playing field between online and offline operating that recognises the border-free nature of the online marketplace. The impact of the proposed replacement for the Package Travel Directive will be very significant if it is adopted unchanged: its scope increases to include transactions and business models currently unaffected.


  • Increased awareness of online opportunities and their regulatory context.

  • Increased awareness of impact, e.g. offshoring

  • Regulation that ensures neutrality of purchase channel that does not penalise EU establishment.

  • Share expertise among membership about online marketing


  • Promote awareness together with members, partners and invited experts.  Seminar topics have included:
    • Best practice guidelines on buying and selling travel products online

    • Maximising online presence as a travel company

    • How to work with review site

  • Engagement with EC and others on outdated regulation current affecting tour operating in a way that the online marketplace can avoid, especially the PTD
  • Explore merits and feasibility of sector specific event for 13/14

  • Develop and promote ETOA partnerships and expertise in e-marketing

How ETOA members get involved

  • Attend related events

Further information and commentary

See Package Travel Directive (PTD) and the potential for more online commerce falling within its scope.

Educational Travel


Group travel for educators illustrates the importance of niche group travel.  Europe is culturally rich and diverse; it can support an infinite variety of educational travel itineraries. Breaking down cultural barriers and widening horizons for a young demographic make good sense and match ETOA’s policy objectives. Educational travel has proven to be economically resilient; school trips are not seen as discretionary as normal leisure travel; school/college trips can provide off-peak business; educators can be receptive to appeal of secondary destinations. On the negative side, the sector is risk averse. It is subject to additional regulation and requirements in various countries that can act as a deterrent to individual group organisers as well as schools and their governing bodies or school districts. The sector has responded to the increased appeal of non-EU destinations: EU product development is essential.  Tour guides are vital to the sector so any regulation affecting them is influential.

Educational travel is a valuable sector with huge growth potential. It capitalises on Europe’s cultural richness and diversity. Its benefit has political recognition but as yet insufficient practical support.


  • Support tour guides’ freedom to provide services
  • Promote awareness and support of sector
  • Minimise unnecessary regulatory load
  • Promote product development, diversity and off-peak travel

  • Participate at youth travel summit at 2013 ITB
  • Sector specific seminar 31st January 2013
  • Reconvene working group to identify issues and priorities: risk management; awareness among policy makers; barrier to travel; product and promotion
  • Continue to build network among educational travel organisations

Further information and commentary

Educational travel associations with which ETOA is developing links


Luxury Tourism


Luxury tourism is a valuable sector that is somewhat resistant to adverse economic circumstances at the high-end. The luxury brands for which Europe is famous attract worldwide interest.  ‘Luxury’ is also used to connote the value of ‘authentic’ and ‘unique’ experiences. Europe’s appeal in these respects is very significant. Estimates of spend per day are eight times higher than average spend; the total spend in the luxury sector up to 25% of the total amount spent on international leisure travel.  While definitions are imprecise, there is no doubt the scope for offering premium services is growing, from high-cost expedited visa processing to bespoke small-group tours and exclusive private visits. There is an overlap between business travel and the luxury sectors: visits that are primarily or even just notionally focused on a stated business purpose may often include high-end leisure content and retail.

As origin markets develop, certain destinations elect to position themselves as exclusive or otherwise not suited to mass tourism; the economic merits of that are evident if the result is a sustainable higher-margin tourism economy with high rates of repeat and referral among an affluent demographic. City tourism authorities and retail groups are keen to see visitors with high levels of disposable income. The growth in niche tourism providers offers more choice to those with higher levels of disposable income or those who in any case choose to spend more on travel; a wide range of potential suppliers and operators is brought into the tourism market. The sector is affected by tax policy. The luxury tax in China, together with the desirability of EU-sourced branded jewellery (as it can be thought more prestigious and authentic), creates demand. If such a tax were to diminish, so might demand. Fashions are by definition fickle; what will keep luxury tourism attracted to Europe?  If it is seen as a high quality destination is there a risk to perception of its value?


  • Raised awareness of the value of luxury tourism
  • Increased discretionary tourism spend


  • Speak at luxury tourism event in Saint Petersburg, June 2013

  • Develop in-house knowledge of luxury market

​How ETOA members get involved

Mega Events


ETOA was sceptical about a tourism boom due to the Olympic games. Its reports  showed how demand slumped in other Olympic cities but there was widespread lack of acceptance of ETOA’s position. The 2012 hotel market was adversely affected from early 2011 onwards; an increase in foreign overnight visitors in London and UK hotels did not materialise. When evidence was impossible to disregard, there was some recognition that tourism did not see the promised bonanza but official denial persisted. Many sectors reported a downturn, from hoteliers to attractions; restaurants to shops. ETOA pointed out that London’s infrastructure was used to major sporting events (Wimbledon, football tournaments and weekly Premiership matches) and cautioned against the strong warnings against travel. In the event, London was wide open for business, its West End quieter than in a normal August. Visitors enjoyed a marvellous atmosphere that was a credit to the UK. 

ETOA believes that there is a strong political temptation to disregard the evidence. Major events can be a way of attracting interest to destinations not as well known to international tourism (the 2012 European Cup held in Ukraine and Poland may be an example), but this is by no means guaranteed. The benefit of mega events to tourism is open to question; they typically damage normal tourism. ETOA seeks to raise awareness among policy makers to that effect.


  • Raise awareness among policy and decision makers about event tourism

  • ​Post-games survey and publication
  • Share expertise in planning related to event tourism

​How ETOA members get involved

  • In run-up to and following London 2012, members provided valuable market intelligence

Further information and commentary

Origin Markets


European tourism’s success largely depends on two things: Europe’s appeal as a destination in origin markets; how easy it is to travel to Europe.

The competitive pressures on European tourism are: the development of other destinations; a marked recent increase in production costs; persistent deterrence in the form of visas and regulatory load.

Markets such as the USA and Japan remain vital, and should not be overlooked as interest develops in the economic potential of emerging markets. New markets may require different products and certainly encounter different challenges in promoting Europe as a destination.

ETOA seeks to identify the opportunities and challenges, promote high-level awareness and convene interested stakeholders to explore the issues and make policy recommendations.


  • More efficient and less off-putting visa processes
  • Less complacency about Europe’s ‘World’s No.1 tourism destination’ status
  • Improved awareness of EU product and diversity in emerging markets
  • Product and service innovation to catalyse and respond to market demand


  • Engagement with authorities re visas
  • Market-specific working groups to identify problems and share knowledge
  • Increased membership and links with organisations in origin markets
  • WTM presentations and seminars on origin markets
  • Focus on consumer regulatory burden in EU, US and Japanese markets in October 2013 tourism summit, together with EU appeal in US and Japan

​How ETOA members get involved

  • Working groups and seminars

Further information and commentary

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River Cruising


River cruising has seen strong growth in difficult times. This alone would mark it out as worth close attention.  It also shows how niche tourism can lead the way. Tour operators are adding river cruise inventory as fast as it is created. River cruising is an excellent source of high-perceived value business. River boats complement land based facilities and allow easy access to cities.

Hitherto, trade associations have tended to focus on sea-going cruise holidays; there is scope for more collaborative effort in the river cruise sector.

Common interest is clear: hoteliers and other providers wish to work with the river cruise sector; river cruise vessel operators are interested in maximising use. There is a need for closer cooperation among the various stakeholders. It is an encouraging example of product being tailored to a sector that entails cross-border co-operation.

The sector has its own logistic challenges: rivers and canals have locks and limited berthing facilities. Tides, seasons and weather affect passage. There are symmetric and hard-to-manage land-based accommodation requirements before or after cruises whose itineraries may not match readily available hotel capacity. River boats can bring a large group of visitors to a destination that may be easily overwhelmed. Bookings must generally be made far in advance.


  • Develop ETOA’s membership and activity to reflect growth in this sector
  • Promote cross-border product development co-operation


  • Preliminary discussions among ETOA’s network
  • Identify other stakeholders
  • Networking between land-based suppliers and cruise operators
  • Attend Danube conference

How ETOA members get involved

  • Join working group once established