To mark the occasion of World Tourism Day Europe's the European Committee of the Regions and the European Parliament each hosted a conference on tourism on 27 September in Brussels. Political leaders, policy makers and stakeholders debated various challenges the tourism sector faces: its impact on the environment and local life, precarious jobs and increasing competition worldwide. Facing these challenges while remaining the world's number one destination should be supported by reinforcing the regional innovation capacity and sufficient EU funding.
Better access to EU grants and loans for tourism, working across public-private boundaries and enhanced strategic cooperation at regional level - these themes dominated the CoR conference which also saw the launch of the first Tourism Platform on Industrial Modernisation. The idea, first voiced in the CoR opinion "Tourism as a driving force for regional cooperation across the EU" (authored by Hans Peter Wagner AT/EPP) was taken up by Lapland and Andalusia who formed the partnership with Slovenia, Castilla y Leon, Catalonia, Lazio, Tuscany and Valencia and have formed this first tourism Platform under the Smart Specialisation Strategy. Congratulating the partners on their new venture, Wagner said "Europe needs such regional platforms to link, strategically develop and market destinations, to pursue the dialogue and exchange of good practices and of the know-how about the use of the EU financial instruments".
"Making Europe 'the world's number 1 destination' is our most precious resource. When passion, determination and ingenuity of our citizens, our business community and our local and regional political leaders come together, we witness great things such as the launch of the Tourism Platform on Industrial Modernisation. This is a tool which was created with the help of the CoR to attract more innovative financing and to help regions and cities in their tourism policies ", said Ossi Martikainen, the newly elected chair of the CoR NAT commission commented.
Addressing the audience at the European Parliament event, the President of the European Committee of the Regions Karl-Heinz Lambertz highlighted key challenges faced by European tourism, "If we wish to develop sustainable and innovative tourism sector, capable to create jobs and growth, we have to focus on two major issues: working conditions that too often remain precarious and level playing field in the shared economy. We should forget eitherthat tourism is not just a socio-economic activity; it is above all a way of life we cherish here in Europe and the freedom to move around and explore European cultural heritage is, alongside the single currency or consumer rights, a European success story."
Speaking at both the CoR and the EP event, Mr István UJHELYI, Chair of Tourism Task Force and Vice-Chair of the European Parliament's TRAN Committee said, "Innovation has always been the best tool of any economic sector or service to maintain its attractiveness and competitiveness. There is an urgent and rather obvious need to find a way to accommodate innovation in tourism better and assign the adequate financial resources in order to actually succeed in renewing this important sector.
The European Parliament's conference participants also heard interventions by President Tajani, European Commission Vice-President Katainen and European Commissioners Bieńkowska, Vella, Navracsics, Thyssen and Gabriel highlighting tourism dimension in their respective portfolios.
Note to editors
Europe is the world's number-one tourist destination, accounting for 51% of the global market in 2015. Directly and indirectly, the tourism industry generates 9.9% of total EU-28 GDP, a figure that is forecast to rise to 11% of GDP by 2026. In the EU, the travel and tourism sector employs almost 25 million people and visitor exports generate €374 billion per year. At a time when unemployment rates have increased dramatically, the travel and tourism sector has remained one of the leading job creators both in Europe (and worldwide), and it has high female and youth employment ratios. Its importance is amplified by its nature, as a labour-intensive sector built primarily by SMEs.