Tourism was Europe’s most resilient sector during the recent economic downturn and will act as a main driver on the road to recovery. This is no coincidence: European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani has made tourism a top priority, supporting the industry with a number of promising initiatives that will continue to stimulate growth moving forward.
Europe remains the world’s number one tourist destination, and the European economy benefits accordingly: Eurostat figures show that foreign visitor spending amounted to €291 billion in 2012, a nearly 10 % increase on the 2008 pre-crisis level.
In 2010, his first year as Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, Antonio Tajani presented a communication on a new political framework to stimulate the competitiveness of the European tourism sector. The communication – which outlines an ambitious set of actions – has helped simplify procedures for short-stay visas, create numerous initiatives to tap into new markets and diversify Europe’s overall tourism offer.
These positive outcomes, however, have not overshadowed the need for continued support, especially with threats such as emerging international destinations and fast-changing consumer behaviour. That is why the Commission is following Tajani’s lead and continuing to promote European tourism inside and outside the EU.
‘Tourism is a resilient and promising sector,’ Vice-President Tajani said. ‘The success of European tourism is based on its capacity to innovate, to diversify its offers, to open new markets and to attract new clients. It is our aim to further unlock its potential and ensure that Europe keeps its top position.’
The European Commission is planning to make it easier for foreign visitors to holiday in the EU with its proposal to revise the Schengen Area’s Visa Code. While respecting the security aspects of the EU’s visa policy, the review of the system will alleviate burdens such as the need to make an appointment and in-person visit at a consular office, as well as the requirement to collect a complex series of documents and translations when planning trips to the EU.
The ‘Senior Tourism Initiative’ – launched in May 2012, with further proposals published in 2013 – highlights how basic adjustments to facilities and information services will enable senior citizens and travellers with special access needs to fully enjoy Europe’s tourism experiences.
Since 2010, the European Commission has also been supporting the Cultural Routes Programme, which features 26 transnational itineraries connecting cities, villages and rural communities across the continent. The Routes – such as the pilgrim routes to Santiago de Compostela and the European Route of Ceramics, which spans eight nations – promote Europe’s history-rich image while also creating opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to tap into new tourism markets.
Furthermore, mobile technologies are being utilised as a way to modernise and personalise European tourism. The European Commission is co-funding the European Mobile and Mobility Industries Alliance (EMMIA) scheme, which takes advantage of cutting-edge mobile technologies to meet market demands. Access to information via mobile applications also supports local tourism agencies and small businesses in rural areas.
In February 2014, the European Commission proposed a set of voluntary European Tourism Quality Principles. Tourism providers, especially SMEs, are encouraged to adopt the principles as a way to promote the quality of their services and enhance consumer confidence.
The Commission will help raise global awareness of these principles, which cover areas such as staff training, cleanliness, maintenance and access to reliable information. This way, consumers know they can expect quality services from participating organisations regardless of which Member State they visit.
Culinary tourism is an emerging phenomenon: More than one-third of tourist spending is devoted to food. The European Commission and the European Travel Commission have been working to ensure that this food-loving market can make the most of Europe’s unique culinary assets. Together, they launched the European gastronomy portal, www.tastingeurope.eu, in February 2014.
Europe is also a favoured holiday spot for Europeans, with more and more people choosing to spend holidays within the EU. In 2013, 38 % of Europeans spent their main holiday in another EU country, a 5 % increase since 2012. This trend is likely to continue in 2014, with only 11 % of Europeans expected to holiday outside the EU.
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