Here the report of the intervention of the Commissioner E. Bienkowska, responsible of tourism at the European Parliament TRAN Committee meeting in Brussels, in the framework of its Tourism Task Force. The minute is made by our colleagues from ETAG ( European Travel and Tourism Advisory Group)
There is not a big variety of tools that could be applied to tourism, but the Commission is trying to be more pro-active. Tourism is an important part to the contribution of the EU GDP. 20% of employees in tourism sector are below age 25. The last few years were tough for the EU economy, but tourism was the most resilient to the crisis. Tourism sector faces a large number of challenges:
Digitalisation and emerging business models (sharing economy). It changes the behaviour of consumers. The traditional models are becoming out of date; consumers’ search for new types of holidays that are customized to them, and the industry must response to that.
Emerging new markets.
Each of the challenge is an opportunity waiting. Digitalisation and collaborative economy – means that a smart, innovative and sustainable tourism product can be offered – what travellers are looking for. Opportunity to attract more tourists from outside of Europe – a work on a joint promotion of Europe has to be done. Skills – it is an opportunity for young employees to enter the market. Industry needs to adapt and work together. Tourism industry must improve their cooperation including other sectors – transport, culture, fashion. Maybe the Commission could prepare in the future guidelines how to link tourism with culture, fashion and crafts. Cooperation with schools in order to achieve the right skills for tourism has to be in place. She welcomes Manifesto for Tourism and Growth. European Alliance of Apprenticeship should not be forgotten as it promotes skills and mobility in the sector. Barriers can be removed and Europe can be promoted. A very coordinated approach is needed and that is why the Commission is focusing on those actions that will deliver the most value. Commission is working on:
Creating opportunities – to ensure that tourism businesses have an access to finance (COSME, Structural funds and etc.). High level conference on 5 April to be organised in Brussels.
How to improve the skills – in May the Commission will publish the European Skills Agenda with a specific focus on high-end skills in tourism sector.
The business environment will be improved and barriers will be removed through the Single Market Strategy. The Commission will launch a start-up initiative this year to get to the bottom of the problems faced in the tourism sector.
Benefits of the collaborative economy – some traditional businesses fair that new businesses will evade taxes, consumer or labour legislation. The best way to move forward is to provide clarity on the legislation. In late May – early June the Commission will come up with guidance on legislation applied to collaborative economy. There will be no new regulation, however a guidance on how to use existing legislation towards collaborative economy should be clear. The Commission needs Member States to work together and remove barriers.
- I.Ujhelyi (S&D, HU): highlighted the need for the support to tourism from the Commissioner; asked why there is no reference to tourism in Juncker’s plan? Asked if it is possible to create a European Tourism Agency and have 2018 as the European Year of Tourism.
- De Monte (S&D, IT): highlighted that tourism should be considered as an industry as it makes a huge impact. She stressed a need to look to the future programming and action plan on tourism. Asked how Commission is planning to pick up the INI and what are the key issues for it to be focused on (“New challenges and concepts for the promotion of tourism in Europe”)? There should be given a full visibility of the Commission’s website on tourism (available in all official EU languages). Maritime and coastal tourism – highlighted that it should be taken as a specific tourism sector.
- Zlotowski (ECR, PL): Recreation and spa tourism – it is not treated profoundly enough. The potential of it is big in rural areas. The resolution on establishment of the European emblem of quality – is it an important question? Is there any information on influence on tourism regarding the refugees (turnover)?
- Bilbao Barandica (ALDE, ES): it is necessary to innovate in tourism sector. We need to be prepared to digitalisation if we want to have new jobs. Will it be any cross-cutting work regarding tourism sector (improvements in the employment, academia sector)? Will it be any proposals on sharing economy? There is lots of debate in Europe regarding Uber and the Commission should work on it more.
- Jill Evans (Greens, UK): There is a need to look what programmes are funded (Cohesion or Regional funding) and how is it working effectively? Is there any evaluation of it?
- Muller (ALDE, DE): Is there a strategy to help SMEs to access the funding?
- A.C. Tapardel (S&D, RO): highlighted the need to discuss on how to promote Europe. Commission should come up with more initiatives in tourism area. She called for more financing and better coordination to fill the needs. She asked for specific solutions in order to tie in SMEs so they could benefit from the Juncker plan. A red tape should be cut off and a consistent approach regarding the 2010 Communication should be in place. Tourism industry federations came with the Tourism Manifesto which she welcomes. It is essential that there is more cooperation, standing dialogue, the European year for tourism and cultural heritage for 2018. She once again called for better marketing and communication on the European level for more less known destinations. She asked to think in the future of the European Agency on tourism which would push the Academy on Tourism to strengthen qualifications.
- de Grandes Pascual (EPP, ES): tourism is a leading industry in Spain and it is more than tourism – it involves social dimension too. Commission is not producing enough of legislation on tourism. We need to recognise tourism as a tool to create wealth. To what extent the Commission can overcome this prohibition to legislate tourism? Sharing economy has to be underpinned so that everybody would act on a level playing field. Sharing economy requires a new regulation to prevent unfair practices.
- Plura (EPP, PL): asked about the situation of disabled people.
- Estaras Ferragut (EPP, ES): tourism strategy is usually exercised at a national level, how the Commission will ensure the coordination? Are there any reports on coastal and marine tourism as a sustainable tourism? Most of Mediterranean islands experience seasonal tourism; she is looking forward to a promotion of diversification. Innovation is very important. Tourism has to be accessible.
Bienkowska: will provide answers in writing to concrete questions. She is convinced that it is the time to do something even though the spectre is narrow. She is convinced that the Commission needs to start the new initiative. By the end of the mandate she expects to have few concrete results: some guidelines rather than on regulation, share of best practices. Juncker plan is also dedicated to tourism: ¼ of the money of the Juncker plan goes to SMEs. High level conference on the 5th of April should help to clarify tourism companies on how to apply for the EU funding. Another step – the Commission will prepare a handbook on how to get the financing for tourism projects. Tourism Manifesto and Isabella de Monte INI will be an inspiration for the Commissioner when working on a new initiative. During the next 18 months the work should be concluded. In the next few weeks the concept paper will be sent out to start the discussions and consultation. Skills will be one of the most important issues. Coastal and remote regions – cooperating with DG MARE. Health and Spa tourism – an issue to be tackled. European quality brand – was not embraced by the Council and there are no planned new initiatives from the Commission side. Sharing economy is the most visible in hospitality sector and it is growing, and that is why the Commissioner does not want any new regulation, but a need to unify the approach in different member states should be in place. We need to embrace new business models; we cannot get rid of it. End of May-beg of June will present detailed guidelines on how to use the legislations: collaborative economy players need to pay taxes, correspond to consumer safety and labour laws. Some Member States are embracing sharing economy, while the others – ban. This should not exist. The Commissioner is monitoring the immediate effect of migrant crisis and can provide with some results of the analysis on tourism sector.