"Sustainable Management of Tourism Destinations"
－Vice-President of the European Commission Speaks at European Tourism Forum Algarve, October 26, 2007
Ministers,Honourable Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to be again at a European Tourism Forum, since ithas become a true reference for tourism stakeholders in Europe.
Indeed,the Forum is an excellent opportunity for us to meet and exchange views, toestablish partnerships to share good experiences and learn from each other. Itis also a wonderful source of inspiration for policy-makers to get the“feeling” of what we could do better to help tourism thrive. It is finally an occasion to raise the visibility of tourism as a major economic and social development factor for Europe and its regions. I am sure that the presence of internationaljournalists and the decision to have the Forum works broadcasted on the Internet that I warmly welcome will help to give tourism the public attention itdeserves.
Discussing the development of tourism is pleasant, but certainly not an easy task. I thinkyou will all agree that tourism is an important sign of the European way oflife and welfare and equally an important economic activity with a significant potential to generate sustainable growth and employment. Already today tourismindirectly generates more than 10% of the European Union’s Gross DomesticProduct and provides about 12% of all jobs. Well that is an economic sector andlabour market worth caring about.
I am convinced that in the future tourism will be one of the key drivers of ourinternational competitiveness. Just think that currently only about 2 percent of the Chinese population travel abroad. My prediction is that as this percentage increases, and it will increase, the economic opportunities will be tremendous. And we will not be alone toreap them. We must be prepared to face the challenge. I see this as one of the crucial elements of the European Union economic strategy for thefuture—of our Lisbon Strategy for growth and jobs.
In this context we are very lucky—Europe can build on comparative advantages whichmake it in itself a very attractive tourism destination. We have a unique historical heritage, an incomparable geographical concentration ofattractive places and indeed a long-standing reputation for high quality services. We must build on these assets when designing the European tourism product of the future.
How should such a product look like? You might be surprised, but not so muchdifferent from how I see a European manufacturing product of the future: aproduct that embraces innovation to respond best to consumers’ needs, a productthat meets the highest quality standards, and a product that is as environmentfriendly as it can possibly be. A product that is a brand of our European values.
I have shared this vision with European industries at many occasions. I have also launched policies which aim at creating an environment in which it ispossible to make this vision happen. I am now pleased to have the opportunityto also share this vision with you, representatives of the tourism industry andpolicy makers.
Let me be clear, only our strive for excellence and nothing else will guarantee our competitiveness in the future. Europe will always be more expensive than most of the other destinations in the world. It is aneconomic logic which we should not try to challenge. What we should do is toaim at providing value for money. Our destinations must simply be the best, themost attractive, able to offer a product which will convince both Europeans andnon Europeans to spend holidays in Europe and to become repeaters. And you all know that as transport costs diminish, this competition in today’s world is getting tougher andtougher.
That is why, building on our tourism policy framework adopted last year we launched afew days ago a new “Agenda for a sustainable and competitive European tourism”.That is also why this year’s Forum is under the spotlight of sustainability and competitiveness. Let me repeat: By integrating sustainability concerns into their activities, tourism stakeholders will protect the competitive advantagesthat make Europe today the most attractive tourist destination in the world. Letme therefore briefly summarise the core elements of our policy.
First of all, we are policy drivers and we wish to support and strengthen the efforts of all involved in tourism. The concrete challenges and priorities can differ for the various European destinations and change over time.But the “Agenda” provides tourism stakeholders with our vision of what shouldbe the common principles and objectives for tourism in Europe.
The achievement of the ultimate objective requires a coherent action from everyone—the different levels of government, the businesses, and even the tourists themselves can stimulate, support and influence tourism.They all have a role to play.
First,policy makers in a sustainable management of destinations. This requires anefficient structure where partnership and effective leadership are facilitated.It covers instruments, such as spatial and land use planning and decisions,such as investments for the provision of infrastructure and services.Sustainable management can be beneficial especially for new or emergingdestinations, and I am thinking about the 12 Member States which joined theEuropean Union lately: the speed of evolution in their destinations should notlead them to an uncontrolled development, but to bringing new products into themarket.
Second, Europe needs that businesses fully integrate sustainability concerns in their way ofthinking and acting. This is what I would call responsible entrepreneurship. Iinsist upon conveying this view to the many medium and even more small andmicro enterprises of the whole tourism spectrum. There is also a role to be played here by the relevant intermediaries—the business supportservices and associations.
And finally we all have a role to play as consumers. With each and every decisionof the kind of product we buy and of the kind of behaviour we adopt we have an impact. We should help Europeans to be informed and see the value of innovation for thesustainability in the European tourism industry. An informed consumer may beless inclined to go for the cheapest solution.
We count on your experience and your responsibilities to build a structured and regular cooperation at the levels where you mostly operate—be it the destination, regional, national, European orinternational one. We expect you to share knowledge by communicating theresults you achieve on the way, in order to build a stronger bridge between the creation of knowledge, its dissemination andthe implementation of sustainable and competitive practices.
Now,let me turn to our own contribution.
Through the large number of policy fields that it covers, the Commission is a majorcontributor to the creation of conditions that influence and sometimes decideon whether industry will be able to grow, to invest, to make profits and tocreate jobs.
We have already made clear in our tourism policy that we do not intend to impose new regulations or seek to replace yourefforts at national and regional level. Our objective is to support your ownefforts with a value added action at EU level.
In this context, I was very pleased to see that the new reform Treaty of Lisbon last week values the importance that tourism has for Europe and gives theEuropean Union more possibilities to help. Once we will be able to bettersupport, coordinate or supplement your actions with the basic objective to promote the competitiveness of European tourism undertakings. This is one of the reasons why I would liketo invite you to speak out for this Treaty which we need for Europe. You arebest placed to explain citizens the added value it would have for tourism.
This Tourism Forum already provides a platform where all tourism stakeholders canexchange views and strengthen their collaboration on the issues of sustainability and competitiveness of European tourism. We will continue to support local and regional actor’s engagement through networks between different types ofdestinations. I know that some regions are invited to meet next November in Florence in the framework of an event called Euromeeting. We hope that such initiatives will be multiplied.
We will also seek to further drive the attention of those actors who createknowledge, such as universities, research institutes, public and privateobservatories, to the challenges for European tourism and facilitate theircooperation. I also invite International Organisations to contribute to this process.
Promoting tourism destinations is the second field of our action.
The pilot project “European Destinations of Excellence” already helps to enhancevisibility of all European tourist destinations and to create awareness ofEurope’s tourism diversity and quality. We have invited all Member States toselect a destination which has been particularly excellent in promoting a tourism offer. The first pilot project with the theme “rural tourism” has been successfully brought to an end. And I am happy to have thepatronage at the first award ceremony which will take place right after thisplenary session. I am glad that the second edition of the awards has attractedeven more countries and I sincerely hope that we will be able to establish theproject on a permanent basis.
The third important field of our action will be to mobilise the EU financialinstruments. We will work to facilitate the spreading of knowledge on how theexisting EU financial instruments have been and can be used to this end by thedifferent tourism stakeholders. The opportunities at European level are alreadythere to be seized. We were particularly encouraged by the inclusion of sustainable tourism in all three objectives of the European Regional Development Fund. This shows that theCommission and the Member-States to share the same goals.
I would also like to express my gratitude to the European Parliament for itssupport. Without this we would not have been able to launch the project of thedestinations of excellence. We need this continued support to look into theissue how to best promote Europe as the world’s leading destination.
Last but not least, the Commission will continue to mainstream sustainability and competitiveness in Commission policies.
Several existing European policies and actions can have a strong influence on tourismand can make an important contribution in tackling the challenges we face.Policies such as environment, transport, employment or research come to mymind.
In doing so we also need to take into account the specific characteristics of different territories.
Ladies and Gentlemen, The European Tourism Agenda is ambitious. However, I assure you that we stand by our commitments and I expect this Forum to help us to enrich our ideas and actions and to foster closer ties amongstpublic and private stakeholders.
Thank you very much for your attention.