History of ETC

The European Travel Commission (ETC) was founded in Norway in 1948. After more than 60 years since its foundation, ETC's core task has remained unchanged: the international promotion of Europe as tourist destination.

The beginnings

Between World War I and World War II, Europe became aware of the importance of tourism.


The establishment of National Tourist Offices (NTOs) rapidly led to the creation of the "International Union
of Official Tourist Publicity Organisations": its first mission was the launch of a joint publicity campaign named "Europe Calling".

ETC delegation with President Eisenhower at White House in 1954

ETC delegation with President Eisenhower at White House in 1954


This union became the International Union of Official Travel Organisations (IUOTO), which is today known as the World Tourism Organization, UNWTO.


In its first General Assembly, the IUOTO adopted the principle of Regional Commissions: 19 European countries were represented and those countries decided to establish the first such Commission. Since its creation, ETC has been a result-oriented organisation working closely with government agencies and all segments of the industry to achieve practical objectives. First priority was given to making governments aware of the importance of tourism in their national economies, which had been deeply disturbed by World War II.That is why ETC has always supported an international co-operation, a collective action and the building of a European solidarity.


A working group made up of members of the European Economic Community (EEC) who were also members of ETC, put forward a proposal to the EEC Permanent Representatives to establish a Tourism Unit in the Brussels secretariat. This proposal was rejected at the time and ETC followed it up by publishing annual studies on the economic importance of tourism in the EEC.


The EEC established in 1985 a Tourism Unit within its organisation and the Working Group took on a new character. Closer links were established between ETC and EEC in areas such as collaboration with technical studies. ETC also took part in discussions with National Tourist Organisations that were arranged by the EEC Working Group. Full support was given to the European Economic Community (EEC) in developing its tourism policy, notably in steps to remove constraints on international travel in Europe. ETC argued strongly that, if the EEC wanted to engage in the promotional, marketing or information aspects of tourism, this would be better done through ETC as it would be complementary to the activities it already carried out.

The EEC accepted this and a special advertising campaign to promote travel from the United States to EEC countries was undertaken. This paved the way for more extensive collaborative promotion in the future. ETC worked with the Tourism Unit on a range of initiatives, including a joint promotion in the United States and Japan in 1988, further campaigns during the European Year of Tourism in 1990 and a lightning campaign to re-motivate travel to Europe after the Gulf War in 1991.


In recent years, ETC has developed an excellent working relationship with the Tourism Unit of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry. ETC is a member of the European Commission's Tourism Consultative Committee and has been one of its advisers on planning the annual European Tourism Forum since the event was first held in 2002.

In 2004, the European Commission appointed a consortium to develop a new pan-European portal, the visiteurope.com. The results of the project and funds to support the costs for managing it were then transferred to the ETC, which has been operating the portal ever since the end of 2005.

In 2011, Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, and Petra Hedorfer, President of ETC at the time, signed a Joint Declaration between the two organisations. The basis of the document was defined in the European Commission's communication Europe, the world's no 1 tourist destination and a new political framework for tourism in Europe and in the European Travel Commission's gradual strategic shift towards the promotion of Destination Europe in emerging markets. The document set out the principles for strengthening the image and promotion of Destination Europe in the future, and outlined key areas of collaboration such as the use of the Europe - a never ending journey brand outside of Europe and the development of pan-European cultural routes and thematic tourism products.


Henri Ingrand (France), the first chairman of the ETC, had settled the basic principles for its operations. The second one, Arthur Haulot (Belgium), drafted in 1958 its official Statutes in accordance with the law of Belgium. When the European Travel Commission was transferred to Dublin in 1965 with Timothy O'Driscoll as chairman, these Statutes remained the only "legal" constitution of the ETC. New Statutes were drafted in 1987 when the headquarters were transferred to Paris under the chairmanship of Walter Leu (Switzerland). In 1996, when ETC moved to Brussels, a new version was adopted. The Statutes were again modified under the chairmanship of Jaime-Axel Ruiz (Spain) in order to comply with new Belgian regulation in 2002. The new version was adopted by General Meeting #66.


In 1948, 19 countries became the founding members of the European Travel Commission: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom. At that time Eastern European countries which were also members of IUOTO were invited to participate, but none of them could accept due to political reasons. Germany, Yugoslavia, Malta and Cyprus joined the Commission a few years later. Currently, the European Travel Commission's members are National Tourism Organisations (NTOs) from 32 European countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey.


ETC has a unique role: it is the only organisation which provides marketing support for Europe as one tourist destination. ETC undertakes market research and launches promotional activities, complementing its members' NTOs in their task of marketing individual countries. In recent years, ETC has also established a long-term collaboration with the European Commission for the Destination Europe 2020 initiative.

ETC Declaration presented to US President Eisenhower

ETC declaration presented to US President Eisenhower

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