EU visa applications should be further facilitated to help the EU tourism industry to drive growth and create jobs, said Transport and Tourism Committee MEPs in a discussion with European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani on Wednesday. Tourism accounts for 10% of GDP and 12% of total employment in the EU.


"Our suggestion on using visa policy to promote tourism is now reflected in an official text," said Carlo Fidanza (EPP, IT), chair of the committee's Tourism Task Force, welcoming the Commission's November 2012 communication.


"Tourism is a basic tool to create jobs. Unemployment is the biggest priority for the European Parliament", said Spyros Danellis (S&D, EL). "But we need to act swiftly if we want to affect figures in job creation"' added Giommaria Uggias (ALDE, IT).


Parliament advocated simplifying EU tourist visa application procedures to attract tourists from non-EU countries in a resolution "on Europe, the world’s No 1 tourist destination – a new political framework for tourism in Europe", voted in July 2011.


European Tourism Quality Label


Commissioner Tajani also told MEPs that a proposal for a European Tourism Quality Label, on which a stakeholder consultation was held in 2012, is to be published at the end of May. He suggested that this label would help Europe to market itself as a quality destination and create a reference point for third country nationals who are unfamiliar with the various labels used in EU countries.


Diversify services for growth


MEPs agreed with Mr Tajani that services such as health tourism and packages for older persons can be used to mitigate off-season lows in many regions of Europe. New services for older persons, who currently focus on their domestic markets, would help extend the tourism season and provide new job opportunities for young people.


"We should focus on the unique selling points Europe has, such as cultural, historical, and natural heritage services and support SMEs which offer these services, so as to facilitate growth," said Keith Taylor (Greens, UK).


Safety, a sign of quality


MEPs stressed the importance of ensuring quality and safety at European hotels and other facilities. "We cannot afford to have a reputation for safety incidents which have happened in the recent past", said Jacqueline Foster (ECR, UK).


Accessibility


To sustain competitiveness, destinations and facilities must be made more accessible, especially for people with disabilities. "We should have a strategy to ensure that all parts of Europe have good transport links," said Rosa Estarás Ferragut (EPP, ES), adding that people with disabilities should have equal access to leisure facilities.


In the chair: Carlo Fidanza (EPP, IT)