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A7-0265/2011

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PV 26/09/2011 - 19
CRE 26/09/2011 - 19

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PV 27/09/2011 - 8.12
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Debates
Monday, 26 September 2011 - Strasbourg OJ edition

19. Tourism in Europe (debate)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. − The next item is the report by Carlo Fidanza, on behalf of the Committee on Transport and Tourism, on Europe, the world’s No 1 tourist destination – a new political framework for tourism in Europe (2010/2206(INI)) - (A7-0265/2011).

 
  
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  Carlo Fidanza, rapporteur. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to start first of all by thanking the Commission, the Council, the shadow rapporteurs and the rapporteurs for the opinion of a further five committees who, in addition to the Committee on Transport and Tourism responsible, worked on this own-initiative report.

It is the first own-initiative report since the Treaty of Lisbon introduced the European Union’s responsibility for tourism policy under Article 195. Tourism is naturally an area in which there is strong competition between countries and often within each individual country there is competition between regions and areas. Therefore, what sense does trying to work together on a political framework for tourism in Europe make?

I think that it makes a lot of sense, because we are faced with a different world to that of 20 years ago; a multipolar world in which new countries are emerging, appearing and offering Europe a large number of new potential tourists who we must engage with in order to secure Europe’s place as the world’s number one tourist destination. It makes sense because tourism is one of the sectors which has withstood the global crisis most effectively, thus we must invest heavily to sustain the competitiveness of our tourism businesses and to maintain the visibility of our tourist destinations.

With this report we propose to advance the 21 actions which the European Commission and Vice-President Tajani identified in the June 2010 communication and to identify which of these 21 actions are the priorities to deal with immediately within a fixed timeframe.

First of all, the subject of measures for supporting competitiveness and access to credit for tourism businesses; the subject of training and professional qualifications with the need to invest heavily in new professionals with managerial aspirations to attract these new waves of tourism; the basic theme of innovation and of information and communication technologies to improve the prominence and presence of our businesses and of our destinations on online marketplaces.

We must find new means by which to overcome a rigid seasonality, which constricts the tourist season and limits the opportunity for growth in our businesses. We must continue to invest in the actions that have yielded good results so far, I refer specifically to Calypso. We must work on environmental sustainability and on the accessibility of tourist facilities and destinations, so that the several million possible and potential tourists with reduced mobility can be fully entitled tourists.

We must promote the cultural routes, as has been done by the Council of Europe in recent years, and introduce new ones. We must invest in international events, as they can be used to attract tourists coming from outside the European Union. We must invest in quality, emphasising quality as a key tenet of the European tourism offering.

We must not hide from the fact that there is a problem regarding the funding of the tourism policy. Until now there was no jurisdiction and thus there were no notable budget lines to be able to advance these projects, moreover many resources were slightly hidden inside the Structural Funds. Therefore we must, on one hand, make the existing resources more visible and, on the other hand, work closely with the Commission on specific budget headings so that we are able to progress the 21 actions and all the ambitious projects that we have.

This is the future that we have outlined with this report, which must not be a cat set among the pigeons, but the first step of an endeavour to which I believe the European Parliament could still give much more.

 
  
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  Antonio Tajani, Vice-president of the Commission. (IT) Mr President, honourable Members, on behalf of the Commission I would like to thank Mr Fidanza, and all the MEPs who have worked with him, for this own-initiative report, which demonstrates once again just how in tune the European Commission and the European Parliament are with one another on an issue that really is becoming extraordinarily important at the moment.

Tourism is an economic sector that is vital for growth and for the competitiveness of the EU as a whole and I am delighted that the document that we are discussing highlights how closely growth is linked to tourism and to the contribution that this sector, which by now must constitute a fully paid-up sector of industry and European entrepreneurship, can make whether in relation to GDP, employment or social inclusion.

The data available to us, including data coming in after the end of the summer, are reassuring. True, there was a drop in 2010 but tourist numbers have remained substantially unchanged in many countries over the summer of this year and there has even been some improvement in the situation. Our work has been aimed principally at the younger generation, given that tourism is one of the sectors in the world of business that provides most employment to young people.

I am delighted that I can share the views expressed in the report when it proposes new initiatives and specific actions of great interest, which I will certainly take into consideration when implementing the 21 actions of the action plan, which aim to develop a truly coherent EU policy for high-quality, modern tourism that is both competitive and sustainable.

Thanks to these actions, our aim as regards competitiveness is to favour synergies between recent innovative technologies and tourism, as Mr Fidanza has highlighted, and to make participation by businesses that are active in tourism possible, in particular SMEs and their transition to digital. We intend to improve the link between supply and demand in the market for workers in the tourist industry, devising a way of mapping qualifications and professional skills.

We intend to guarantee a consistent quality of European tourism products and to intensify efforts aimed at promoting Europe as a collection of sustainable and high-quality destinations and, as the rapporteur indicated in the course of his speech, in future in the sphere of social tourism we must ensure Calypso preparatory action, through the creation of a web-based platform of supply and demand, as a mechanism for facilitating exchanges of tourists between countries.

I am convinced that, as a result of increased attention from interested parties and Member State involvement, exchanges of tourists between countries and cofinanced web projects from Calypso will achieve very positive results.

As regards sustainability, this is closely connected to competitiveness in this highly important sector, because the quality of tourist destinations is strongly influenced by the natural and cultural environment and by their integration in the local community. Consequently, our efforts are intended also to guarantee sustainable development for tourism. To this end, I intend to propose a European charter for responsible tourism aimed at sanctioning at a European level the commitment of public administrations, tourism businesses and all those who are interested in promoting tourist activities in Europe that meet a series of principles of sustainability and responsibility at a social, economic, and, I stress, environmental level and also at a cultural level.

I was in Madrid, last week, for the conclusion of the first ethical tourism day and in the course of my speech I stressed the commitment to combating exploitation of women and children but also to protecting the environment, hence tourism is also part of our strategy in the fight against climate change.

I also intend to focus ever more closely on increasing the visibility of Europe and its tourist destinations. We are ready to take part in the European Tourism Forum on 6 October in Krakow, which will focus on joint, transnational promotion in third country markets and I would like to stress that the European Commission has been the promoter of an initiative, of a pilot project, to increase tourist numbers from Latin American countries during the low season.

We have signed an agreement with Chile, Argentina and Brazil, an agreement to which certain EU countries have signed up, notably Spain, France, Italy, Portugal and Poland and also Romania which, only the other day when I visited Bucharest, decided to sign up to take part in this project involving the biggest European airlines and all the tour operators.

In short, an opportunity to look at ever-increasing tourist numbers from Latin America during the low season. This is a signal that we want to give to all businesses operating in the tourist sector. And I am delighted once again with the European Parliament and with its proposal when it comes to funding. The success of the joint venture and the future of the European tourism sector will obviously depend in ample measure on the possibility of obtaining adequate political support and financial backing for European tourism policy within the current financial framework and also beyond 2014.

I wish to reassure those who may have concerns about competences. I intend to rely upon the legal basis of the treaty, I do not intend to violate the principle of subsidiarity and the European Commission does not intend to take the place of or to usurp regional competences nor the competences of individual Member States in matters of tourism and this too I think is in line with the views of Parliament.

Our intention is only to increase tourist numbers within the EU. As I was able to respond to Mr Fidanza during Question Time in the last plenary, I am working to achieve the objective of increased funding in the next financial perspectives.

As you well know, in fact, as part of the Commission’s proposal we have decided to create a fund to support the competitiveness of SMEs which will have EUR 2.4 billion at their disposal. Obviously, I am counting on including tourism among the activities to support competitiveness, just as I am counting on having the support of Parliament once again, once discussions commence at the level of the two co-legislators.

I thank you once again for your attention and I assure Parliament once again of my commitment to ensuring that, at this delicate time, tourism can be the instigator of growth and above all, a tool for the protection of the environment and for the creation of new jobs, above all for younger workers.

 
  
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  Seán Kelly, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Culture and Education. − Mr President, as the Commissioner pointed out, the Lisbon Treaty now gives us a legal basis and the confidence to do something on tourism at a Europe-wide level, which was not there before. Certainly it is an opportunity we are right to grasp.

Europe is the number one tourist destination in the world. It contributes 12% of employment to the European Union and 10% to GDP and, as the Commissioner pointed out, there is a great opportunity to grow that even further. Europe is rich in all sorts of attractions for tourists and this can be developed.

From the cultural point of view, we are very pleased that a number of initiatives are already very successful, such as the European Cities of Culture, the European Cultural Roots Programme – St James’ Way being the shining example – the European Heritage Label and, in recent times, the European Cities of Sport.

I particularly want to highlight the importance of sport because, both from a participative and also from a spectator’s point of view, it has huge potential. Last weekend the Solheim Cup, which is the female version of the Ryder Cup, was held in my own country, where Europe had an outstanding win. I think opportunities to grow sport, particularly water sports, can be developed right across Europe.

So we have a great opportunity; there are projects and targets. Let us go at it because it can do a great deal for the economy.

 
  
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  Salvatore Caronna, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Regional Development. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I think that the challenge of the coming years is to ensure that Europe, as has been said, maintains its position as the world’s number one tourist destination and, at the same time, is able to enhance its entire territorial heritage, both in terms of environmental protection and competitiveness.

The challenge is a difficult one and not to be taken lightly, having regard not only to the opportunities but also to the aggressiveness of other countries in this sector, of other continents from China to India and Brazil. Against this backdrop, as Commissioner Tajani mentioned, and as noted also in the opinion that we approved on the Committee on Regional Development, having a strong, general, EU-wide strategy on tourism with an enhanced role for the regions and territories becomes fundamental. Accordingly, in keeping with the principle of subsidiarity, it is essential that regions and local authorities are fully involved from the outset.

Moreover, I believe that the development of integrated tourist networks and projects should be encouraged through the creation of partnerships for the exchange of best practice. I think that the proposal to identify a ‘Europe brand’ that is capable of defining a high quality of tourist product is also good. Obviously, it will be up to the Commission to define better the priorities, above all from a financial point of view, to guarantee that Europe retains its number one position in future.

 
  
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  Rareş-Lucian Niculescu, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development.(RO) Mr President, I was the rapporteur for the opinion expressed by the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development on this subject. I think it is important that the final report adopted our references to rural tourism and agritourism.

Rural tourism is an asset to Europe and must be capitalised on. This sector plays a vital role in keeping some rural areas alive, in increasing revenues in these areas and in creating jobs. Support for investments in rural tourism must continue to be eligible for sufficient funding as part of the future common agricultural policy, coming under the second pillar where sufficient funding must also be maintained for the rural infrastructure and investments which can make European villages more easily accessible and attractive.

I will conclude by also stressing the importance of the call made to the Commission to promote ecotourism.

 
  
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  Georges Bach, on behalf of the PPE Group.(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, I would like to warmly congratulate Carlo Fidanza on this first-rate report on a new political framework for European tourism.

Tourism is a huge and very important industry in Europe, linking in with economic, cultural and environmental factors, as well as transport considerations, of course.

This report also provides an ideal springboard for cooperation between EU institutions, Member States and parties involved in the tourism industry on the ground. Our aim must be to give a high value-added European dimension to national and regional initiatives, through concrete actions.

In this report, we voice our support for promoting a more sustainable, responsible and competitive tourism industry. I believe that sustainability and responsibility in tourism are not restricted to the environmental issues, but also have an important social aspect. Tourist sector businesses are obliged to adopt a social responsibility policy, by creating high quality jobs for qualified employees, whilst enabling and improving mobility for employees in this sector.

To conclude, I would also like to draw attention to the pioneering work done by the Luxembourg-based European Institute of Cultural Routes, as well as the projects run under the INTERREG programme. I should mention in particular the many initiatives that have been launched in the region, for example in Luxembourg, Belgium and Germany: these can act as models and we ought to do even more to promote them.

I hope that this important work will continue to receive support from the Commission and from the Member States.

 
  
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  Spyros Danellis, on behalf of the S&D Group. (EL) Mr President, Commissioner, the tourism industry in Europe is in decline and needs new momentum. It faces challenges which require specific, new answers and needs to make efforts to adjust. In this unprecedented economic crisis in Europe, tourism is the best economic activity for creating new jobs, securing income for local communities and hence boosting regional development, and promoting the competitiveness of a huge range of undertakings.

If we are to make the best possible use of this potential, we need measures and policies to coordinate, harmonise and improve the quality of the European tourism product. Thus, players in the European tourism industry need to join forces and work on a standard policy framework which takes account of the Union’s new priorities. Developing and promoting diversified forms of tourism may be the only effective response to the distortions, problems and deterioration to which the current model of undifferentiated mass tourism is leading.

Support for actions, with the necessary funding, to promote diversified tourism in the Union, addressing seasonal fluctuations in tourist activity, utilising information and communication technologies, using innovation to strengthen small and medium-sized enterprises, mitigating the accessibility problems of island and mountain areas, taking social tourism – tourism for all – initiatives, introducing the principles of interregionality and complementarity, improving the standard of services provided, considering the feasibility of a charter of tourists’ rights and responsibilities and simplifying tourist visa procedures, especially for the BRIC group of countries, are just some of the issues addressed in this report.

The European Parliament report sets out an ambitious framework to make European tourism a more competitive, modern, viable and responsible industry. It also seeks to restore a healthy relationship between tourist development and the environment. Tapping the diversity, multifacetedness and multiculturalism of the European tourism product will offer maximum growth for any form of thematic tourism and, without doubt, will lend added European value to the Member States’ tourism policies. We call on the European Commission to submit an integrated strategy by the end of 2012 for implementing the actions proposed in this report.

 
  
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  Giommaria Uggias, on behalf of the ALDE Group.(IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe I wish to express my satisfaction with the work that has been carried out.

It is an historic step in the institutional evolution of Europe following the Treaty of Lisbon that for the first time competences are assigned to Parliament and the Commission in relation to tourism, which is the third component of the economy and of employment in Europe.

First of all, I would like to stress that the text that is being put to the House today sets out a comprehensive governance that stems from Europe 2020 strategy and develops a series of proposals to achieve growth that is smart, sustainable and inclusive in every sense. Accordingly, it suggests specific programming instruments such as strategies for macro-regions, interregionality and joint and complementary planning.

At times like these, when governance loses its bearings, we know what the negative effects are. Here, on the other hand, the dossier traces a very precise path. Out of these plans and instruments, I wish to call to mind the extraordinary plan to foster a progressive reduction in the seasonal nature of tourism, set out in paragraph 63 of the report.

From the point of view of a European economy that, unfortunately, is losing a large share of industrial output, tourism can and must represent an important factor for overall growth, above all if the main public and private players can create an integrated approach between the different policies of the sector, the various financial instruments and build tourism into a real system that brings together the various economic sectors: agriculture, industry, craft, transport, services, and so on.

I should mention that the text being voted upon contains numerous references to islands and remote areas which represent, as I was saying at the outset, a tangible way of achieving, through appropriate financial instruments, the criterion of inclusion sought by Europe 2020 strategy. Ladies and gentlemen, the tourism sector is also characterised by sustainable growth in environmental and social terms, which supports SMEs for which we have provided a business incubator tool, for innovation by way of supplying knowledge tools that will enable them to achieve, and the tourist to obtain, better travel solutions.

Further, beyond the specific actions already put forward by the Commission I must give credit to Commissioner Tajani for the particular attention paid to SMEs and micro-enterprises, which must be singled out. In the report, they are regarded as guaranteeing innovation from the bottom up and they are expressly recognised as fulfilling the function of ensuring the quality, variety and authenticity of the different regions.

 
  
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  Ryszard Czarnecki , on behalf of the ECR Group.(PL) Mr President, Commissioner, tourism is a springboard for the economy of many countries, in the rapporteur’s country as well as the Commissioner’s. I think that it could also be an opportunity for those poorer EU countries such as Poland, which is one of the five poorest Member States of the EU. I think this, too, needs to be seen in this context. I would like to thank the rapporteur for drafting a very good report. I would also like to stress that tourism represents an opportunity in times of crisis – as my predecessors have also said – because although tourism may decrease, it can also increase paradoxically in some areas, and it is certainly not dead and buried.

I would like to point out some specific areas of tourism, or rather types of tourism that might represent an opportunity. Firstly, there is environmental tourism, or visiting those areas of Europe where nature has been preserved in its former state. For example, this is the case in the east of my country: nature reserves and special species of plants and animals which do not occur anywhere else. These parts of Europe are not well-known but are very important, and I think it would be worth considering an ecological, environmental form of tourism.

Secondly, sports tourism, which is statistically very significant, and which is becoming more and more important. More and more people are travelling to sports events and are getting to know new countries and new regions as a result. At this point I would like to invite you all to my country, Poland, for the European football championships next year. We will welcome everyone with traditional Polish hospitality.

Finally, another issue is tourism on the fringes of the European Union. Many Europeans travel to the Maghreb Union Countries. We should also mention that other European breathing space, Eastern Europe, on the fringes of the EU, including countries such as Belarus, Ukraine and the eastern areas of Poland – this is a quite fascinating subject.

Finally, agritourism. Tourism to build bridges between countries which are already in the EU and countries which will form part of the EU in the future. I am pleased, as Commissioner Tajani has said – and I would like to end on this note – that both Parliament and the Commission agree on this.

 
  
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  Frieda Brepoels, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (NL) Mr President, tomorrow, 27 September, is World Tourism Day, as well as European Tourism Day. I think that that is excellent timing for the first report on tourism since the advent of the new powers under the Treaty of Lisbon.

Other Members have already said that the European tourism sector generates a large number of jobs and represents an important engine for our economy, including for Flanders, the region that I represent here. I am thus pleased that this report contains proposals to further bolster the competitiveness of the tourism sector and that it pays particular attention to the specific role of SMEs in this connection.

As shadow rapporteur for my group I organised a colloquium in Parliament a few months ago where a number of good practices in tourism were presented. What came strongly to the fore as a result of that meeting was the idea that putting the ideas of quality, sustainability, participation and accessibility at the heart of the tourism sector could deliver a win-win situation for all the parties involved, and these principles also enjoy a prominent place in this report.

I still believe, however, that the Commission communication has too few priorities. It therefore seems to me to be crucial that the Commission should take Parliament’s call for a more integrated approach to heart and bring forward an integrated strategy next year which is more specifically focused on the tangible added value that Europe can offer in respect of the policy that is already being pursued by Europe’s regions and the Member States. If we want to make this a reality on the ground, this coordination of content must be reflected in the financial resources for tourism in the new multiannual financial framework. The report contained a number of very specific suggestions in this regard – I would also point to crisis management, as, in emergencies, coordination and identical operation in relation to information in all Member States are crucial.

Secondly, we come to the labels. I think that we need to avoid a further proliferation of brands and that the number of brands needs to be reduced.

Finally, I am really pleased that the report also asks the Commission to look into the feasibility of a Charter of tourists’ rights and responsibilities comprising principles such as accessibility, provision of information, transparent pricing and compensation. Mr President, I will conclude by offering my sincere thanks to the rapporteur, Mr Fidanza, and all my fellow shadow rapporteurs for the excellent collaboration that we enjoyed.

 
  
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  Jacky Hénin, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(FR) Mr President, whether we are discussing tourism or any other topic in this Chamber, we inevitably end up talking about competitiveness. How, though, can the Louvre’s competitiveness be compared with that of the Hermitage Museum? That of Venice with that of the Château de Versailles? That of the Côte d’Azur with that of the Beskidy Mountains?

It would be laughable were it not for the fact that, behind the quest for competitiveness at any price, there unfortunately lies an awful reality for tourism’s workforce, with very low wages, excessive exploitation and mass insecurity. Insecurity and excessive exploitation that will be made yet worse by the transposition of the former Bolkestein Directive into national law by the Member States.

What the tourism industry and its workforce need is a substantial increase in the purchasing power of Europe’s entire active population, because, without an income worthy of the name, there can be no leisure activities. What the tourism workforce is expecting from Europe is increased protection to eradicate exploitation.

 
  
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  Laurence J.A.J. Stassen (NI) . – (NL) Mr President, this new European policy framework, a European tourism policy, is a typical example of Europe trying to seize more power for itself, at the expense of the Member States. As far as the Dutch Party for Freedom is concerned, tourism policy is primarily the national responsibility of the Member States. Since when have the Member States not been able to conduct their own tourism policy?

Even more important is the fact that tourism is clearly not a cross-border problem where there would be a need for Europe to get involved. In Brussels, sadly, this is seen differently. In future, the tourism industry, too, will be expected to contribute to what is referred to as the economic, social and territorial cohesion of the European Union.

Furthermore, this report does not fail to take account of the tourism sector’s contribution to the Europe 2020 strategy and its absurd climate targets. Mr President, I will give a number of illustrations of the plans. Thus, for example, the feasibility of a ‘Europe brand’ for high quality tourism is to be studied. Needless to say, it will be the mandarins in Brussels who will define what such high quality tourism consists of, rather than the country in question or the tourists themselves. Tourism to so-called sustainable destinations is also to be promoted, while remote islands and outlying areas will soon be grabbing from Brussels’ big pot of subsidies.

Europe must not meddle in the tourism industry. This area should just be left to the Member States. They are perfectly positioned to ensure a varied and competitive offering for tourists.

 
  
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  President. − That concludes the Group speakers. I am now leaving the chair but can I just say that I was the first European Parliament rapporteur on tourism in 1984, all those years ago! Keep it up.

 
  
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  Inés Ayala Sender (S&D). - (ES) Mr President, I should first of all like to congratulate Mr Fidanza for his report, which not only champions competitive, innovative tourism, but also ethical, sustainable tourism.

I would like to thank him for heeding our demands on the special needs of outermost regions.

I should also like to congratulate the Vice-President of the Commission, Mr Tajani, for his willingness to make up for lost time in this sector. The Lisbon Treaty provided a much needed and much celebrated legal basis, but now it is time to secure the necessary funding.

I am particularly pleased at the report’s acknowledgement that the superb lessons we drew from the Calypso social tourism programme must be put to work in order to unlock the sector’s seasonality. We need to stimulate tourism for all Europeans, whichever their social or financial situation.

The agreements with Latin America are also good news. I wish to express my support for your policies in this area, which will hopefully mean tourists from those countries will be granted visas and helped in other ways.

I think specialisation is particularly useful in improving tourism quality: heritage tourism, health and spa tourism, gastronomic tourism, sports tourism, rural tourism, and even shopping tourism.

It is also crucial, in my opinion, to make further progress in the area of accessibility for tourists with reduced mobility, improve tourists’ rights, and implement, in collaboration with management and labour, a strategy for excellence in training and employment conditions for all industry workers.

We need good professionals because they are the cornerstone of Europe’s leadership in this sector.

However, as I have already said, all this requires funding. You will definitely have our support from now on in the debate on financial perspectives. I therefore call on you, Mr Tajani, to be as ambitious as the tourist industry merits. We will support you.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: RAINER WIELAND
Vice-President

 
  
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  Gesine Meissner (ALDE).(DE) Mr President, I would like to respond directly to Ms Stassen, who is the only one so far to say that we do not actually need tourism in Europe. I believe that we do indeed need it, and, moreover, it will not undermine the competitiveness and autonomy of the individual Member States. It is indeed the case that Europe is currently the number one tourist destination in the world, and, naturally enough, we would like it to stay that way. We want it to stay that way with all the diversity that we have. The diversity that we have in Europe can be seen from the previous speeches. These alone have made it worthwhile to be part of this debate, because if anyone thinks that 10 days is sufficient in which to see Europe – thus, the Acropolis, the Tower of London, the Eiffel Tower and perhaps Neuschwanstein in Germany – he or she is mistaken. Europe offers much more and it has developed a great deal more in terms of tourism.

I would now like to mention something in particular that we have in north Germany, where I come from. We have cycling tourism, we also have nature-oriented tourism, not only holidays on the farm, which certainly also awakens a real understanding of nature, but, for example, also tourism in very sensitive areas such as the Wadden Sea beside the North Sea. That is a globally unique area. There you can really see how, right next to main shipping routes, a very sensitive form of tourism can be developed that also awakens an understanding of the diversity of nature. This is something that we need more of.

Something that has not had any, or very little, mention is the fact that we also have old mines and old industrial heritage sites, for example, that you can view and where you can learn a great deal about the history of Europe and the working environment. Thus, there is a very broad spectrum, and in that regard we ought to consider how we can bring this to the outside world and how we can maintain Europe as a very attractive tourist destination in future, too.

 
  
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  Olga Sehnalová (S&D). - (CS) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, tourism generates about 10% of EU GDP and employs about 12 million workers. In addition to this, it should be noted that European countries are regularly amongst the most visited and most popular destinations. Europe has, however, continued to fail to take advantage of its enormous potential as a unified mark of quality and sustainable tourism for tourists from third countries. There is an increase in particular in travel from the BRIC countries to the European Union at the moment. Data published by Eurostat shows that, when comparing the first halves of 2009 and 2010, the number of visits from the Russian Federation increased by 18%, from China by 19% and from Brazil by as much as 46%. Of these countries, China has the greatest long-term potential. According to World Tourism Organization statistics from 2009, China, which has a total population of 1.3 billion, increased expenditure on outbound tourism by 21%. In order to take full advantage of this growing potential, we must provide a simpler visa policy for tourists, such as group tourist visas, and also support individual tourism. We must also gradually overcome the seasonal nature of tourism and introduce the Europe brand as a year-round destination that can offer natural, cultural and industrial heritage.

The rapporteur, Mr Fidanza, places great emphasis on this approach, and I therefore fully support his report; I wish to congratulate him and all the shadow rapporteurs, and to thank them for the work that they have carried out.

 
  
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  Izaskun Bilbao Barandica (ALDE).(ES) Mr President, Commissioner, I intend to support this report because I believe it epitomises several of the principles that should guide the process of European integration.

The report is based on the acknowledgment that our different traditions, customs and even languages are an expression of our diversity, but also an economic asset that becomes fully visible in the tourist industry.

Accordingly, the report makes the case for embracing diversity using a bottom-up approach, and strengthening it through training, innovation and new technologies, with the ultimate aim of building a common European brand of quality tourism. Tourism that embodies the three key notions of the 2020 strategy: smart, sustainable, inclusive development.

One expression of these principles is the Basque Culinary Centre that opens this week in San Sebastián. The University of Mondragón and Basque chefs have opened, with the support of public institutions, the first School of Gastronomic Science, and a food and gastronomy research and innovation centre: quality and training in line with the values that should underpin the European tourism brand.

 
  
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  Hubert Pirker (PPE).(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, we all know that tourism is a branch of industry that is of absolutely fundamental importance. We have received numerous proposals for how, together, we can keep tourism competitive throughout Europe. An important part of this is the development of quality tourism. We ought to set a few priorities here in order to develop this quality tourism.

The first thing we need to do is to invest more than we have done up to now in the training of the people working in this industry. We need to break down barriers so that we open up new markets, for example by means of an easier process for issuing tourist visas. We must gradually harmonise the hotel classification systems. Above all, however, we also need to ensure that school holidays are better coordinated in order to avoid traffic jams and to be able to fully utilise the businesses better.

Lastly, we ought to try, out of the numerous programmes that are available to us, to prioritise an investment programme to promote tourism. Overall …

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Janusz Władysław Zemke (S&D).(PL) Mr President, I would like to thank you very much for allowing me to speak in this important debate.

I feel heartened that our Parliament has dealt with tourism comprehensively, just as the European Commission has been doing for some time. In my country, Poland, the tourism sector is also becoming more and more important both socially and economically. It seems to me that it is particularly important to promote increasingly diversified offers throughout the EU and also to encourage people in the EU to extend the tourist season, creating the financial and legal conditions for them to do so. We should also compete for and strive to encourage more tourists from outside the EU more actively than we have been doing. In my opinion, one of the more important issues is to overcome the visa barrier. This is where the most dynamic changes in the EU should take place.

 
  
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  Michael Cramer (Verts/ALE).(DE) Mr President, tourism, as we know, can also destroy tourism. Therefore, we also need to combine economy and the environment when it comes to tourism. We know that cycling tourism has been growing by more than 20% per year for the last two decades and that, above all, cycling tourists spend more money than motoring tourists, which, in particular, supports the local economy. I very much welcome Commissioner Tajani’s Cultural Routes programme and I would ask you also to include the Iron Curtain Trail in these routes, as the culture relating to the division of Europe is depicted wonderfully along this 9 000 kilometre cycleway stretching from the Barents Sea to the Black Sea through 20 countries.

However, we also need to pay attention to the funding. Our analyses show that 60% of the transport funding goes into the roads, only 20% goes into the railways and 0.7% into the cycling infrastructure. Of course, we need this too and we can support it. We therefore say: we want at least 15% of the budget for cycle tourism and for walking. Then we will also be able to provide the basis for an ecotourism that serves both the economy and the environment.

 
  
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  Jaroslav Paška (EFD). - (SK) Mr President, despite the fact that tourism is an important and stable source of revenue for EU countries, it is right to discuss opportunities for boosting its potential.

In my opinion, one effective and available measure we might quickly deploy to boost revenue in tourism, is a more flexible EU visa policy. Experience from the time when my own country did not apply visa restrictions on its Eastern neighbours showed us that the inhabitants of Ukraine, Russia and also other countries from this region were very interested in learning about life in advanced European countries.

Following the introduction of the Schengen border and the introduction of mandatory visas for visitors from the east, our tourism revenues fell very sharply. I therefore firmly believe that greater openness and a more flexible EU visa policy towards countries with dynamic economic growth would relatively quickly bring in significant numbers of new customers for European companies operating in the field of tourism.

 
  
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  Nuno Teixeira (PPE). (PT) Mr President, Commissioner, tourism needs a clear and coordinated European approach that is attentive to the possibilities and challenges the various forms of tourism offer us.

The touristic diversity presented by the European Union is so rich that exponential growth of this sector and of the competitiveness of the European Union in general is possible. Investment in this key sector, which represents 10% of gross domestic product and 12% of employment in the European Union, will make it possible not only to create European added value, but also to cope with the economic crisis now facing us.I come from an outermost region, Madeira, where tourism is the principal economic activity. Hence the creation of a special heading for this sector in the financial framework for 2014-2020 is indispensable for cohesive and sustainable growth in the tourism industry, which is essentially made up of small and medium-sized enterprises. The development of a sustainable, diversified and genuinely European policy for tourism needs a tangible strategic plan, with a calendar and well-defined actions and financing that are capable of enhancing the visibility and quality of the tourism sector in the European Union.

 
  
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  Sergio Gutiérrez Prieto (S&D). - (ES) Mr President, I am a municipal councillor in a small village in central Spain. While it is true that the tourist industry is an opportunity for the entire European Union, it is much more markedly so for rural areas like ours, for three reasons: firstly because it diversifies the economy, bringing a new opportunity for women and young people, and is also a policy that can prevent depopulation in our rural areas; secondly because these activities also fully complement the activities of the primary sector, and even strengthen them in the case of agritourism; and thirdly because, unlike in the coastal sector, seasonality is not as high, which can also mean new, longer-lasting, better-quality jobs.

I would therefore like to stress that this report should not make the mistake of setting a European strategy based, once again, on the coastal or urban sector. Rural areas should be a priority, particularly in terms of competitiveness, investment, training, innovation, the adoption of excellence as its standard, consistency in quality criteria, and greater visibility. Furthermore, rural tourism should be taken into account across each and every one of the Commission’s actions.

Thus, I would like to congratulate the Commission and the rapporteur for this initiative and this report.

 
  
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  Georgios Koumoutsakos (PPE). (EL) Mr President, Commissioner, it is a happy coincidence that we are debating the report on tourism today and will be voting on it in plenary here tomorrow, on the European Tourism Day. This is a very good report and I believe that it provides the support needed by the Commissioner, who we want to be even more ambitious in the tourism sector.

I asked for the floor in order to raise the issue of the European Heritage Label. It is very important, in that it supports the competitiveness of European tourism, but if this is to happen, sites which receive the European Heritage Label must remain open all year round and we must encourage the Member States to ensure that they do. I would go one step further and punish heritage sites which are not accessible every day of the year by withdrawing their label.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D).(RO) Mr President, tomorrow we celebrate International Tourism Day, and the European Parliament’s Danube Forum is going to organise a debate on the subject ‘Tourism in the Danube Region’ to highlight the tourism potential of this region. The development of transport and tourism using inland waterways can contribute to the sustainable development of cultural tourism, nature tourism and recreational tourism.

An effective European tourism policy needs not only a strategy and action plan, but also sufficient funds. Revitalising tourism, which is an integral part of European industrial policy, is a strategic employment objective.

In recognition of the close link between tourism and transport, we call on the Commission and Member States to modernise the national, regional and cross-border infrastructure for the various modes of transport. We support the promotion of integrated electronic ticket sales systems for the various means of transport and we call for a charter of tourists’ rights and responsibilities comprising principles relating to accessibility, provision of information, transparent pricing and compensation. Last but not least, proper working conditions are vital for ensuring the quality of tourist services.

 
  
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  Marian-Jean Marinescu (PPE).(RO) Mr President, the report proposes drawing up a charter of tourists’ rights and responsibilities including, among other things, principles relating to accessibility and the provision of transparent pricing and compensation information. Tourists’ rights must be protected, and drawing up a charter to include all the currently existing European consumer rights legislation is a first step towards this.

As I see it, introducing a standard EU-level contract between the tourist and operator would be the next logical step towards harmonising and protecting European tourists’ rights. The need to harmonise the classification of hotels by identifying minimum common standards is also of paramount importance. This harmonisation process, along with other factors, provides the basis for safeguarding tourists’ rights.

 
  
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  Lara Comi (PPE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I congratulate Mr Fidanza for the excellent work he has done. His report certainly contains excellent proposals and I am sure that the Commission will take them into serious consideration.

I am of the view that we should have a twin and integrated approach. On the one hand, we should be improving the image of European tourism in the eyes of the world through the promotion of our common heritage and on the other sustaining and enhancing as much as possible the individual nature of each Member State. An example for everyone would be the beaches of Italy, which are truly one of a kind and inimitable.

Therefore, I am in favour of introducing a European brand so long as national characteristics are promoted at the same time. Moving on to aspects of the internal market, I am very glad to note that the proposal to harmonise the accommodation classification system, which would surely enable quality standards to be raised and reinforcement of consumer protection, has been welcomed. Furthermore, the idea of creating a white list of tour operators, which was tabled by the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection but which, sadly, was not adopted in the report, should not, in my opinion, be rejected and I hope that in future it can be reconsidered.

 
  
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  Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the Commission. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for again emphasising the number of MEPs who wished to take part in this debate. It shows that tourism policy is a priority policy for us. It is part of the policy for entrepreneurship and I am pleased that many of you stressed the importance of, and the support that we should give to, the small and medium-sized enterprises and the micro-enterprises operating in this sector.

My main commitment, as you know, is to support the business world, and, I repeat, as I said in my first speech, as far as I am concerned, the tourism sector is a fully fledged part of the business and industry sector. Several remarks made during the debate are entirely in line with the Commission’s position, and, I repeat, we are in perfect agreement and this only serves to consolidate a joint action by the European Commission and the European Parliament. No one could be happier about this than me, having spent 15 years as a Member of Parliament.

Together we shall be able to put in place a policy to drive tourism policy and its coordinated development which, I repeat, does not violate the principles of subsidiarity: the competences of the regions and the Member States, I repeat, will remain as they are now. European policy and coordination and governance at European level only serve to provide added value. They certainly serve to develop and make the most of the internal market, but they also serve to attract more tourists from wealthier countries to the European Union.

This is why I am making intensive efforts to attract Latin Americans. I am making efforts to attract visitors from Brazil, India, Russia and China. Clearly, as many speakers pointed out, visas are a key issue. The European Commission has acknowledged this, we are deeply committed and we have spoken about this in informal Council meetings with ministers for tourism: we do have a problem when it comes to security.

My position is that without the slightest doubt, terrorists are not worried, they have no problem obtaining a visa. I think, however, that we need to work harder to try to solve the problem, or at least facilitate the issue of visas. I fully agree with the commitment regarding the low season so that hotels and all tourist facilities can stay open as long as possible, hence the pilot projects which we are launching, and, I repeat, the Latin American project is important as far as I am concerned.

I also agree that we need to exploit all sectors in order to attract tourists, including the sports sector. It is no accident that the Commission’s document mentions the London Olympics as an event that we should capitalise on – likewise the Milan Expo – in short, everything that Europe has to offer must become a means of boosting tourist numbers.

I fully support the strong action promoting green tourism. Tourism must also be a tool to make the best use of Europe’s environment and natural heritage, whether in coastal or mountainous regions, and as has already been stressed, the idea of developing cycling tourism is something which appeals to me, and is a sector which is continuing to gain ground.

The other day, during an official visit to Bucharest, I talked at length with the Minister for Tourism who had launched a project to develop cycling tourism precisely in Romania’s capital city. I also support the idea that we need to give due importance to areas such as the Danube Delta, and also to countries which on the face of things are not top of the list when it comes to tourism policy. Every country of Europe has, however, an exceptional heritage to offer.

I am delighted that countries such as Poland are making every effort – as did the Hungarian Presidency previously – to support a European tourism policy that certainly represents added value for the growth of our economy, including by taking part in the summit on 6 October. Therefore, I can only congratulate Mr Fidanza and all the Members: it is rare to see so many MEPs in this Chamber during a debate at this time of day, which means that this topic is of great interest.

I would stress – and thereby reassure the speakers from the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament too – our strong commitment to protecting jobs, to respect for workers, and I highlighted in my speech how important the tourism sector is for employment growth, especially for youth employment. I intend to continue to make every effort, as I did as Commissioner for Transport, to protect the rights of travellers, including tourists.

I would remind you that, fortunately, we managed to adopt – with Parliament’s support too – the charter of passengers’ rights covering all transport sectors, especially for passengers with reduced mobility. I intend to build on this work to develop tourism packages, just as we did for air transport. I believe that, as Commissioner responsible for industry and tourism, I can continue this action which I launched as Commissioner for Transport; it is never specified, but I am the Commissioner responsible for industry, enterprise and tourism.

I would repeat, we must capitalise on all sectors, including their specific features. I am thinking of food tourism, including the wonderful restaurants in Donostia-San Sebastián, perhaps among the best in Europe. Therefore every European area represents added value which, consequently, we should highlight. Lastly I would reply, in conclusion, to those of you who are concerned by an invasion by the European Commission: I do not take an invasive view of the Commission and the European Union; instead Europe can represent added value.

There may be beautiful places in the EU which are worth visiting, but which the Chinese, Russians or South Americans have never heard of. Visiting Europe also means visiting these places, these other lesser-known places. It means offering the chance to develop the principle of subsidiarity in the field of tourism throughout Europe.

This is what I intend to do, and I must thank, once more, Mr Fidanza for bringing Parliament’s politics in line with Commission politics with his report. I would like to reassure all the Members that I firmly pledge to continue my efforts so that tourism policy continues to gather ever greater momentum, so that tourism policy becomes ever stronger, so that it can genuinely become a key sector for growth, competitiveness, employment and the protection of the environment in our European Union.

 
  
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  Carlo Fidanza, rapporteur. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, my sincerest thanks go to the many Members who took the floor and to those who, unfortunately, were unable to do so. I am also grateful for the constructive contributions which characterised this entire process over recent months, as well as this debate, and I wish to thank my group, first and foremost, but also all the political groups, for having made this debate possible.

I do not know whether any of you realised, or perhaps only a few Members are aware, but up until a few days ago this debate was not due to take place. We firmly insisted on holding this discussion, moreover, on the occasion of European Tourism Day – a happy coincidence – and in view of the fact that this is the first post-Lisbon report. I believe that your participation today testifies to the fact that we were right to insist.

How can we ensure that this work is continued, and constantly spur on the Commission’s efforts? First of all, by supporting what has already been set in motion, because when we embarked upon this task the Commission launched a series of initiatives which are already under way. Mention was made earlier, for example, of the quality label: a round table has already been set up with operators in the tourist industry – so there is no desire to overstep the principle of subsidiarity nor to impose from on high solutions which have no backing – and it is under way and already functioning, and we can contribute to its work.

There is the financial question – we said this earlier – and starting with the 2012 budget there are major pilot projects on cultural tourism, our industrial heritage, tourism and accessibility which have been tabled by some Members and which the whole of Parliament could support to ensure that certain resources are invested in important aspects, in the framework of the 2014-2020 financial perspectives.

I also believe – I have almost finished, Mr President – that we will also have the chance over the coming months to develop certain specific aspects which we outlined in this report, which paints a picture, but we will be able to examine them in greater detail in specific own-initiative reports since we believe that they deserve to be further ... (The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Tuesday, 27 September 2011 at 12.30.

Written Statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE), in writing. – (RO) Recent economic developments have highlighted the need for a coherent European tourism strategy. This should address the problems relating to social matters, territorial cohesion and the protection of natural and cultural assets. At the same time, it is important to develop a regional policy to support this sector. The EU Strategy for the Danube Region, which was a joint Romanian-Austrian initiative, provides a model for this. One initial result from implementing this strategy in our country is the opening of the Sfântu Gheorghe mini-port just last weekend.

Europe must also utilise the resources offered by ecotourism. For example, Romania is intending to set up a national network of tourist cycle routes in areas with picturesque landscapes. In order to promote Romania’s country brand, there are plans to diversify services so that the number of foreign tourists will double by 2015.

 
  
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  Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă (S&D), in writing.(RO) In a recent league table featuring the 50 most popular countries in the world, we find seven EU Member States among the first 10 destinations. This clearly shows that Europe has considerable tourism and cultural potential, but still offers opportunities which are untapped, in spite of the economic crisis.

I think that the EU and Member States can identify new ways of attracting foreign tourists to Europe and encourage tourists to travel about more within the European Union, especially in connection with major cultural or sporting events. Multicultural Europe still has many traditional sights, but also has monuments and places off the beaten tourist track, which must be visited in connection with such events. Furthermore, tourist operators must be encouraged and supported in attracting tourists from non-EU countries so that tourism will continue to make a large contribution to European states’ GDP.

 
  
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  Robert Dušek (S&D), in writing. - (CS) Tourism represents 10% of EU GDP and provides jobs and a livelihood for 12% of Europe’s citizens. Tourism is also the most effective way of improving the global dissemination and promotion of Europe as a single destination, with the unique character and diversity of its regions. In order to support the sustainability and competitiveness of European tourism we need to work on training and the professional qualifications of people working in the tourism industry, and to invest in innovation and new technology. In this context, I consider Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs to be a suitable instrument for the development of new capabilities and skills in young people, who should subsequently be able not only to provide a livelihood for themselves, but also to create jobs for others in their local area.

It is essential for the European tourism industry to gradually extend its seasonality. The Calypso programme, which would allow some categories of people (the young, the elderly and the disabled) to enjoy a holiday during the low season, may be an appropriate means to this end. The hustle and bustle of today’s world will result in ever greater interest in rural tourism and agro-tourism, nature tourism and spa and health tourism in the future. It is essential that that we are prepared for this change, and that European tourism offers adequate facilities, and not just to European citizens.

 
  
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  Luis de Grandes Pascual (PPE), in writing. (ES) I would like to begin by thanking the rapporteur, Mr Fidanza, for an excellent report and for his good work in bringing on board the many ideas that have been put forward in this House to make European tourism a key asset of our economy.

Tourism constitutes one of the Union’s largest sources of revenue, and in my country, Spain, it is essential to have a sound tourism policy that continues to attract tourists from across the world and helps to foster economic growth at a time of crisis.

The European Parliament has, for the first time, expressed itself politically on this subject, and it has done so by supporting the work of the Commission, but also by setting forth new ideas that enrich future tourism policy following the adoption of the Treaty of Lisbon.

It is not a question of harmonising, as this is precluded by Article 195 of the Treaty, but of supplementing national policies to improve service quality, to couple the ‘Europe brand’ with national brands, and to create budget lines that reinforce national policies.

With a view to countering seasonality in the sector, I have helped boost the role of social tourism, paying particular attention to tourism for the elderly on the basis of the Spanish experience. I considered it fundamental to support small and medium-sized enterprises and to develop entrepreneurship in the industry, as a driving force for employment.

The goal is to consolidate Europe’s image and visibility as a collection of sustainable, quality destinations, and to foster the competitiveness of the European tourist industry.

In a global world where new markets are emerging, Parliament has an undeniable opportunity to maintain Europe’s status as the primary tourist destination in the world and to contribute to economic growth by bringing different cultures closer together.

 
  
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  Gaston Franco (PPE), in writing.(FR) As the rapporteur for the opinion of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) in the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, I would like to congratulate Carlo Fidanza on his excellent report, which is a foundation stone for a true European strategy to stimulate and complement the Member States’ action in the tourism field. Tourism is a key industry, and a source of growth and job creation. Europe needs tourism that is in phase with the modern world, the changes in world demand and the changes in our societies. We need tourism that is innovative and competitive but that also respects the environment, local cultures and local conditions. In a context of international competition between destinations, we have everything to gain from promoting our assets, our trades and our know-how, and from better communicating our unique European and national features. Therefore, the recent creation of a festival of French gastronomy celebrated on the first day of autumn is an excellent initiative that we should welcome. Sustainable tourism, cultural tourism, business and conference tourism, health tourism: these are the priorities. We should also establish Euro-Mediterranean cooperation in the tourism field in the wake of the Arab Spring. We need to make every effort together to bring prosperity to the Mediterranean on the basis of common standards and projects.

 
  
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  Jolanta Emilia Hibner (PPE), in writing.(PL) The way forward for the development of tourism in Europe should be a common approach which also respects the diverse situations of the individual Member States. The development of tourism and its competitive potential is focussed on Central and Eastern Europe. These are countries which have acceded to the Union in recent years. Funding from European sources should be provided and expenditure on culture should be increased. The new challenges which Europe has set itself are economic development and the development of tourism, and flexibility depending on the situation. The historic industrial premises in Poland and other European countries as well as the building of new centres and historical and cultural buildings are a way of promoting by regions and cities. Industrial sites in Łódź, for example, have been rebuilt to house contemporary hotel and recreational areas or commercial infrastructure. A new element in the development of tourism is the reclamation of post-industrial sites. Creating artificial lakes in quarries, building artificial beaches, laying out cycle routes, planting forests, creating parks and transforming mine waste dumps into ski slopes are all examples of the utilisation of post-industrial sites for the purposes of tourism.

 
  
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  Jarosław Kalinowski (PPE), in writing.(PL) Tourism is a branch of the economy which brings in millions in earnings throughout the world. Europe, especially in times of crisis, cannot afford to lose out on this opportunity. Some of Europe’s regions have the chance to fend for themselves, thanks to their attractions and tourist base. However, there are regions which in spite of their advantages are not promoted properly and are not ready to take in tourists. This is why action to support the development of an infrastructure and marketing to ensure promotion is so important. The development of agritourism is a real opportunity for this branch of the economy. Skilful investment can create an opportunity for many new jobs in rural areas and the opportunity for tourists to be close to nature and be able to relax. It is also an opportunity to promote regional products, culture and traditions, and also ecological agriculture.

 
  
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  Jaromír Kohlíček (GUE/NGL), in writing. - (CS) Tourism is one of the most important parts of the tertiary sector, and its absorption capacity is not yet adequately appreciated by the various EU Member States. It is good that there are ever-increasing numbers of entities involved in this industry, and that the European Commission and European Parliament have recently been paying attention to it. The changing population structure in particular, whether in Europe or worldwide, brings with it a whole range of new tourism opportunities. These include important groups (the disabled, pensioners) that place specific demands on operators of tourist facilities. In recent years, there has been much talk of social tourism and new client sectors are emerging in developing countries. All of this places very high demands on the EU, as one of the leading destinations, in terms of improving the qualification structure of industry employees, promoting diversification in the range of tourism services on offer, and also coordinating the development of the industry as a whole. The anticipated 21 actions contained in Carlo Fidanza’s report may provide a good basis for concrete action by each Member State, and also for a coordinated effort at European Union level. In particular, the new ‘trademarks’ and innovations in the form of packages of different ‘routes’, whether by combined transport or by bicycle, car, train or water transportation, can be an important impetus for the further development of the industry. The EU must increase its efforts to maintain its position as the world's number one destination.

 
  
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  Jan Kozłowski (PPE), in writing.(PL) According to some forecasts, by 2020 the number of people aged 65 or more will form 20% of the population. This section of society has a potentially large amount of purchasing power and has plenty of free time, but at the same time requires a specialised form of tourism. The year 2012 has been declared European Year for Active Ageing. This will be an excellent opportunity to focus on the needs and preferences of this age group, and to promote different forms of activity and ways of spending free time which are targeted at the elderly. It would therefore be useful to draw up an appropriate strategy and exploit our possibilities and potential in creating an image of the European Union as an attractive and high-quality holiday destination. To achieve this, we must have highly-qualified personnel who will be able to adapt to new technologies and new market expectations. The Committee of the Regions believes that young people are playing a key role in creating jobs in the tourism sector, and this is the group which is currently most at risk of unemployment. According to the European Commission, one in five young people below the age of 25 in the EU is unemployed. This is why I feel that we should promote the idea of entrepreneurship, and also basic and advanced vocational training, which would provide opportunities for those young people just setting out in their careers and for those who already work in tourism, as well as for those who want to improve their skills.

 
  
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  Ádám Kósa (PPE), in writing. – (HU) I would like to congratulate my fellow Member Carlo Fidanza on his report. In view of the current difficult economic circumstances, it is extremely important that we take advantage of every possible opportunity to create jobs. A key factor in this effort is to develop and create attractive and sustainable tourism in a number of regions across Europe. At the same time, it is important to remember that we live in an ageing society: the number of people above 60 will increase by 70% already in this decade. As such, there is a more pronounced demand not only for accessible tourism without barriers, but also for active outdoor activities for the elderly. Carlo Fidanza recognised the importance of these criteria, and included in his report my suggestions concerning barrier-free tourism, accessible to everyone. This would make it possible for families with small children, the elderly, and 80 million citizens living with disabilities to have equal access to services in this area, and enjoy their well-deserved leisure time actively, thereby increasing market demand for European tourism.

 
  
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  Alajos Mészáros (PPE), in writing. – (HU) Since the ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon the importance of tourism, too, has been part of the competence of the European Union. No wonder, as tourism is a sector that is capable of positively influencing the economic growth of the EU, stimulating job creation, and contributing to development. Consequently, there is a difference as to what efforts we make in order to reinforce European tourism and maintain its competitiveness. In 2008 a total of over 370 million tourists visited the EU Member States, accounting for 40% of the world’s tourist traffic. This makes Europe the number one tourist destination among holidaymakers. There is an immense potential yet to be exploited in European tourism due to our excellent geographic position, and we should definitely make use of it. I believe that there is no part of the EU that could not offer something that is unique in the whole world. There is, for example, health tourism; Central Europe has vast reserves of spas, and the region is home to exceptional and entirely unique medicinal baths. We need to take joint action to popularise our history and the roots of our Christian culture together. We must be able to acquaint visitors with the culinary art of our various regions. We must find ways to make Europe more marketable. We must give incentive to EU-level support to tourism and enhanced cooperation between Member States. We must be able to respond and adapt to societal changes, because this is the only way that we can hope for our tourism to be successful.

 
  
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  Debora Serracchiani (S&D), in writing. (IT) I would like to thank Mr Fidanza for his constructive work.

Tourism has enormous potential for achieving certain important EU objectives, such as sustainable development, economic growth and employment, as well as socio-economic cohesion. In recent years, growth in employment in the tourism industry has been considerably higher than in other areas.

Indeed, the EU tourism sector generates more than 4% of GDP, with around 2 million businesses providing work for approximately 4% of the total workforce: around 8 million jobs. Therefore there is a clear need to support the sector, including by improving training and recognition of professional qualifications.

At European level, the Union must put in place an integrated strategy with clear, high-level objectives, with effective, targeted measures that promote innovation and improve the quality of tourist services, providing, for example, ever greater accessibility for persons with reduced mobility. I support the creation of a European quality label and the idea of diversifying tourism through the promotion of culture, history and religion, and I would stress the importance of promoting tourism by giving due importance to Europeans who have spread European culture beyond this continent.

 
  
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  Joanna Katarzyna Skrzydlewska (PPE), in writing.(PL) The tourism sector is a very important branch of the economy, generating a great deal of employment particularly in small and medium-sized enterprises, creating opportunities for development of non-industrialised regions, and contributing significantly to the national budgets of EU Member States. In the report that was presented today, its author put forward many important issues which need to be solved to simplify travel for the purposes of tourism, so that the sector becomes even more profitable, the aim being to promote Europe and its cultural heritage fully. What is essential is integrated action for the promotion and development of the tourism infrastructure through greater cooperation at national, regional and local level as well as cross-border cooperation, not forgetting to coordinate action with other sectors that may be directly involved. In the virtual sphere we need to expand and maximise the potential of our portal, www.visiteurope.com, and to integrate ticket sales systems for various forms of transport so that crossing borders by rail in particular will not cause excessive difficulties. A major improvement will also be the EU-wide harmonisation of classification systems for accommodation establishments, and the promotion and sale of holiday packages for important cultural and sporting events. However, we must not forget about incidents such as the one which took place in Iceland, and we must also draw up crisis control scenarios so that during natural disasters the rights of tourists and passengers are not violated.

 
  
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  Artur Zasada (PPE), in writing.(PL) I would like to congratulate the rapporteur for his very fair and comprehensive attitude towards the issue of strengthening Europe’s position on the global tourist map. The document was prepared at a good time for the European Union, which is still the most popular tourist destination in the world, in terms of the number of people arriving from outside the EU. However, we should remember that even a dominant position requires constant strengthening, especially in times of crisis.

In my opinion, one of the best ideas for strengthening the leading position of the EU as the most popular tourist destination in the world is the promotion of travel to Central and Eastern Europe, especially in the context of the introduction of European heritage trails. For almost the whole of the second half of the 20th century, Central and Eastern Europe was almost completely excluded from normal tourist traffic. Taking into account the growing competition from other tourist destinations outside the EU, and also the fact that we cannot increase our competitiveness by basing our marketing on the same places we have been promoting for over half a century, I believe that opening European tourism towards the east is vital, this being an area which is not well known either in the European Union itself or worldwide.

 
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