On September 3rd, the TRAN Committee welcomed the Italian Minister for Tourism, Mr Franceschini, to discuss the Italian Presidency priorities in the tourism sector, including its contribution to economic growth and jobs, as well as a single European brand for international tourists and high quality standards. Another key issue raised was the infrastructure to support the development of tourism, including intermodal transport.
Mr Franceschini, Italian Minister for Tourism noted that the central topic for tourism is a proper understanding, at all levels of decision making in Europe and Member States, that tourism is a major opportunity for growth and Europe’s economic development. He noted that Europe is one of the world’s biggest tourist destinations, so tourism should become central, not least when redefining the Europe 2020 strategy objectives. He elaborated on this point, explaining that there is international tourism into Europe as well as domestic tourism, and the bulk of international tourists (notably from China and Russia) organise trips into one capital to another. This means that international tourists choose Europe as a whole and so he advocated work on Europe’s ability to enter the global market as a single player. Regarding internal/domestic tourism, he explained that this is more than an individual trip or economic contribution, because tourism is part of European citizenship and a nascent European identity. With Europe’s natural and cultural resources, he said they need to understand and invest in the link between culture and attracting tourists. This also entails an aim for quality tourism on the supply side.
Central actions to be undertaking for growth in European tourism include supporting the growth of mobility plans and intermodal transport, especially making it easier to arrive in less important regions. He noted the surplus in big capitals when there are small arts cities which are not on the tourist trail. They also need a mechanism to ensure a variety of holidays including for young and older people, as well as tourist itineraries on a thematic basis, such as the renaissance Franciscan trail and cycle trails.
A second important challenge is due to tourism being an internet-based industry and he mentioned public intervention to support digitalisation. They also need to invest in regenerating a culture of hospitality and highly trained human resources because high calibre services are in demand with tourists. Here he advocated the exchange of good practice. He added that communications campaigns are needed for Europe as a brand and mentioned the European Tourism Forum in Naples on 30-31 October, as well as an informal meeting with tourism and cultural ministers to emphasise the tourism-culture link.
He noted that the Package Travel Directive (PTD) was adopted by plenary in March and said that the Italian Presidency aims to progress the negotiations in Council for a quick 2nd reading agreement with Parliament. He noted that this legislation intends to increase consumer protection and accompany the change in the market where people are booking their holidays online. The Italian Presidency also intends to propose to Council the adoption of draft conclusions on Tourism, to strengthen the position of the industry and the idea of using natural and cultural heritage as a lever can make a contribution to economic growth and employment.
Peter Lundgren agreed that Europe’s cultural and historic value could be a driving force to support the economy, however the recent trend should merit further consideration, such as the decrease in the duration of travel. He also stated that the tourist offices of each state are significantly different. As for the Presidency priorities of investing in advanced special training courses and a network of best practice, he noted that there already are many programmes such as Calypso, cycling and cultural routes and these are far from emphasising the peculiarity of countries. He also noted that the Presidency believes Member States should have a wider own initiative and play a role in these. The Presidency would like to simplify visa procedures and he asked how they plan to do this, while guaranteeing Europeans’ safety.