Cruise lines in Europe are lobbying for action to combat cumbersome visa procedures which the European Commission estimates loses the region six million potential tourists a year.

Clia Europe members have met EU decision makers and tourism bodies in a bid to unlock the potential of maritime tourism.

This comes against a backdrop of Europe steadily losing market share in world tourism, decreasing from 64% in 1980 to 51% in 2010.

If things remain unchanged, it is expected to fall to a level of 41% by 2030, according to the UN World Tourism Organisation.

The European Commission forecast that new rules covering visas could lead to an increase of visitors of up to 60% and generate up to €25 billion in additional revenue for the EU every year.

The EU Visa Code was established in 2010 to set out the procedures and conditions for issuing visas for short stays and airport transits.

But the commission last year highlighted the need for a common visa policy to also address potential for generating economic growth and new jobs.

Reform of the Visa Code would not lead to relaxing security procedures in Europe. The screening of visa applicants will remain stringent, and a high level of control will be maintained in ships, ports and destinations, according to Clia.

Clia Europe vice chairman David Dingle, chairman of Carnival UK, urged to EU to act.

He said: “We need to maintain Europe as the World’s number one tourist destination by increasing the number of third-country tourists. This would be good for Europe and its economy.

“As Clia Europe, we welcome the process to reform of the EU Visa Code as an important starting point.

“But we need to act fast, otherwise the EU risks losing important contributions in terms of trade, investments and jobs at a crucial time of economic recovery.”

The organisation’s secretary general Raphael von Heereman added: “Seeing other countries’ efforts to increase their tourism flows, we need a timely adoption of a smart Visa Code to boost the European tourism sector and enable the cruise industry to contribute even more to Europe’s economy and society.

“But in order to reach this goal, we need adequate support from policy-makers. The key is to foster cooperation between the EU institutions, member states and tourism stakeholders.

“We are following the decision-making closely and we hope that substantial progress will be achieved by the summer.”