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INSULEUR hearing at the EESC on the European Strategy on Coastal and Maritime Tourism

Commissioner Damanaki gave an Opening Speech today at the Public hearing of INSULEUR, the Network of the Insular Chambers of Commerce and Industry of the European Union, which took place at the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). Commissioner Damanaki had the opportunity to exchange views with Mr Juan Gual de Torella, INSULEUR's Chairman as well as with Mr Henri Malosse, the President of the EESC. Together they evoked the European strategy on Coastal and Maritime Tourism and discussed both the handicaps and challenges of this strategy for Island regions.

Read Commissioner Damanaki's Opening speech below.




INSULEUR hearing at the EESC
“The European Strategy on Coastal and Maritime Tourism: Handicaps and Challenges for our Islands”
Economic and Social Committee, 8 May at 9h15
Opening Speech

President Malosse,
Mister Gual de Torrella,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for devoting time and attention to the issue of tourism on islands.

You are quite right to do so. The importance of tourism in the European maritime economy is clear: 183 billion euro of gross value added, 3.2 million jobs… The figures speak for themselves.

But coastal and maritime tourism takes entirely different proportions in the economy of islands.

In the Balearic Islands it accounts for almost half the regional GDP and about 30% of the jobs. As much as 85% of the economy depends on it in the Canary Islands.

However, ladies and gentlemen, understanding the importance and market trends of tourism is not good enough. We need to understand the outstanding challenges too.

The recession, first of all; the growing competition from overseas; the structural lack of skills; the curse of seasonality; the poor connections with the mainland: these are indeed 'handicapping' the sector, in the language used in today's programme.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the rationale behind the new Strategy you are discussing today. With this paper we give maritime tourism a precise European Action Plan. We ask governments to come up with national strategies for coastal and maritime tourism. We ourselves commit to carry out targeted actions in support of national policies. And we issue a number of recommendations for public authorities as well as for the private sector.

Speaking of demand, this is changing. People want more than a sun lounger these days. This is the time to invest in smart specialization and niche markets. For example, nature tourism is transforming the market in the Azores. Maritime heritage tourism is prospering in Denmark.

Nautical tourism is growing steadily. To give you an idea, the luxury yacht segment grew by some 228% between 1998 and 2008. Diving has extended the season in many resorts. On the North Sea and in the Atlantic, the strong winds attract surfers even in autumn and winter.

I think Europe has what it takes to be the number one nautical destination in the world. And by the way I wish to congratulate INSULEUR for developing Nauticaleurope: very good job.

Another study we will undertake concerns innovative practices for marinas, as we want European marinas to cater for the needs of visitors, including elderly people, with unequalled service.

We will also check that safety requirements for recreational craft are up to standard and look into the mobility of skippers on the European market.

Like it or not, it is the older generation who have the money these days, so cruise tourism is booming. This is also good business for our islands because seniors are not bound by school holidays and travel all year round. Later this year we will launch a Pan-European dialogue for the whole cruise sector, including the coastal resorts – so that synergies can be found on land and the benefits of cruise liners touching port can extend to the local community.

Last but not least, ladies and gentlemen, we have a duty to make sure that the public money available is used fully and rationally.

At present European funds do not allow us to subsidise the operating costs of ferries. Our member states though can give their own national assistance for connectivity of small islands.

The Structural Funds can also go to improve the construction of ports and related infrastructure, which may reduce the costs of ferry connections.

But aside from connectivity there is a wealth of funding options from  the Regional development fund, the Maritime Fund, the Life+ programme, Horizon2020 or the specific fund for SME’s, COSME.

Our new maritime Fund gives remote islands a special status that entitles them to higher financing rates.

For operators to find their way, we are developing an online guide on funding and also a web portal containing useful information and apps for the daily management of any tourism company.

To conclude, ladies and gentlemen,

The EU's policy on maritime growth, our innovation strategy, our framework on maritime space planning, our customized sea-basin policies: all these create plenty of opportunities for coastal regions. And islands have a formidable advantage for growth and jobs. Let's get working to stimulate those jobs, because if we can do that, then there is no better place to live than on one of our islands.

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