Evolution of sustainability in the European Union tourism policy Francisco Javier Melgosa Arcos University of Salamanca I. INTRODUCTION Tourism plays a fundamental role in the European Union (EU) because of its economic and job creation potential, as well as its social and environmental implications. In 2014, one in ten companies that were active in the non-financial entrepreneurial economy belonged to the tourism sector. The companies belonging to sectors in which activities related to tourism were carried out represented 9.1% of the people employed in the non-financial business economy and 21.5% of the people employed in the tertiary sector (EUROSTAT) 1 . In short, tourism activity is the third most important socio-economic activity in the EU and generates almost 6% of its GDP, employing more than ten million people. The European statistics agency estimated that in 2015 the residents of the EU-28 made 1.2 billion tourist trips, either for personal or business reasons. From the perspective of the offer, it was estimated that in 2015 there were more than 578 thousand tourist accommodation establishments, offering more than 31 million places in the EU-28. In 2015, Spain was the most common tourist destination in the EU for non-residents (coming from other countries), with 270 million overnight stays in tourist accommodation establishments, 21.3% of the total for the EU-28; followed by Italy, France and the United Kingdom. In 2017, almost 500 million tourists visited the EU, representing 40% of the global tourism 2 . According to the WorldTourismOrganization (UNWTO), in the “ UNWTO Tourism Highlights ” publication, the EU is an important tourist destination, since five of its member states were among the top ten destinations in 2015. Tourism has the potential to contribute to employment, economic growth and 1 http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Main_Page. 2 European Union Short-Term Tourism Trends.