The particularly dramatic situation of the EU's tourism sector is the focus of an opinion presented during the December plenary of the European Committee of the Regions. The opinion drafted by Manuel Alejandro Cardenete Flores (ES/Renew Europe), Deputy Minister for Tourism, Regeneration, Justice and Local Administration of the Regional Government of Andalusia, underscores the fact that the crisis caused by COVID-19 has brought about dramatic changes in the tourism sector and reflects on how political leaders could address the challenges and drive forward the sustainable modernisation agenda.
Tourism is a strategic sector, a tool for integration and a key driver of social and economic recovery: contributing more than 10% of the EU's gross domestic product, providing jobs for 26 million people, and accounting for 6% of total EU exports. The UNWTO has estimated that losses caused by the pandemic in the global tourism industry in the first five months of 2020 were already more than three times higher than those recorded in the 2007-09 international financial crisis. This has inflicted immeasurable damage to livelihoods and has had devastating economic consequences, resulting in personal losses, serious financial difficulties, and numerous companies going bankrupt.
"The crisis accelerated the urgency of the measures needed to respond to these challenges and to ensure the safety and well-being of residents and of visitors. We think that tourism has the capacity to give the answer with adequate policies and with the necessary investments, but always leading the transformation of the model of sustainability proposed by the Green Deal and Digital Agenda of the European Union." said Manuel Alejandro Cardenete Flores (ES/Renew Europe), rapporteur of the opinion 'Towards more sustainable tourism for EU cities and regions'.
Speaking at the CoR plenary session on 8 December, Cláudia Monteiro de Aguiar (ES/EPP), Member of the European Parliament and rapporteur on tourism, said: "The Covid19 pandemic and the resulting crisis have shown the urgency of doing more at European level to seek a robust tourism policy in the EU that helps citizens and businesses to cope with this sanitary and economic crisis. The report that I am in charge of at the European Parliament aims to rebuild the industry after the pandemic by refocusing the governance structure, strengthening the twin transition and planning the future of the industry." In her speech, the MEP opened for a closer collaboration between the European Parliament and local and regional authorities.
The European Committee of the Regions also calls for the allocation of sufficient financial resources to save the sector, for the development of a long-term European tourism policy, and for a sustainable tourism industry, based on respect of the environment and fight against climate change. The CoR's opinion proposes various measures related to tourism and the transport sector, such as state aid and visa waivers, and underlines the need for an innovative approach to this sector.
The improvement in the tourism and transport models must guarantee that they are fully sustainable from the social, economic and environmental perspective. The opinion highlights the importance of a post-pandemic revival of the European tourism on the basis of a data and technology driven sustainable industry and intelligent management of the tourist flows, exploring viable options for tourism-related industries and regions.
The photos of the 141st plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions are available in the CoR Flickr gallery.
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