More than half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas. This is expected to reach 80% by 2050. Cities and metropolitan areas are centers of economic activity, knowledge generation, innovation and new technologies. They impact upon the quality of life of citizens who live and/or work in them and they are major contributors to global challenges. Tourism is a major economic activity in the European Union with wide-ranging impact on economic growth, employment, and social development in urban areas.
Sustainable development has since long been at the heart of the European project and the EU Treaties give recognition to its economic, social and environmental dimensions that should be tackled together. Development must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. A life of dignity for all within the planet's limits and reconciling economic efficiency, social inclusion and environmental responsibility is at the essence of sustainable development.