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The service sector


Specific Objectives and Competences

  • To understand the changes that have taken place in Europe and which have facilitated the expansion of the service sector.
  • To identify the economic activities included in these services.
  • To understand the importance of the tourism sector in Europe.


  • The tertiary or service sector includes a great variety of economic activities, including: trade, hotels and catering, transport, storage, communications, finance, insurance, services for companies, and community, social and personal services.
  • Services are characterised by being intangible and are normally consumed at the same time that they are produced.
  • In recent decades, there has been a notable movement of labour to the service sector within the EU; this has mainly been from the industrial sector, but also from agriculture.
  • At the same time that European industry has been on the decline, the importance of the service sector has grown. It is now the main source of employment in all of the EU countries. In 2011, almost 70% of the workers in the EU carried out their functions within the tertiary sector.
  • This process is known as the “tertiarisation of the economy”. There are three factors that explain this increase:
    • The increase in the standard of living, which goes hand-in-hand with an increase in the demand for cultural, tourism, leisure and health services.
    • The development of the Welfare State which also requires providing specialised services.
    • The delocalisation of European companies, which manufacture their products outside the EU but carry out the rest of the activities associated with the service sector within their countries of origin (advertising, design, technical assessment, customer service, etc.).
  • At the EU level, there are differences in the level of “tertiarisation”. While the countries of the south of Europe have equalled their levels of employment in the service sectors with those of the north in recent decades, the countries that have joined the EU following its most recent enlargements still have some way to go to achieve this.


Tourist visas continue to be obligatory for many tourists from countries with emerging economies who visit Europe. Taking into account the fact that these emerging countries will be the markets that experience most growth in the future (page 7). 

Do you think that a restrictive policy with regard to providing tourist visas could affect the European tourism industry?