The European Commission marked World Tourism Day today by highlighting good figures for the first part of the 2013. On this occasion, Vice President Tajani recorded a video message to emphasize the importance of the EURES job portal for the growth and employment in this sector.
Despite the economic crisis, Europe remains one of the favourite destinations. According to the latest UNWTO figures, international tourist arrivals in Europe grew by 5 % during the first half of 2013, with best results recorded in Central and Eastern Europe (+ 9 %) and Southern and Mediterranean Europe (+ 6 %).
Additionally, tens of thousands of jobs are currently available in the tourism sector across Europe, which could provide some relief to the more than 26 million Europeans currently out of work. Jobs in the tourism sector are especially attractive for the young workforce, which faces a 23.5 % unemployment rate (reaching a stunning 50 % unemployment rate in some areas). Although jobs exist in the tourism sector, often it is difficult to match potential employers with qualified workers across Europe. In order to foster employment and mobility in the tourism sector, the European Commission has put in place EURES, the first pan-European job portal which currently has many openings in the tourism sector. The portal will soon allow searching for more tourism-specific skills.
European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said: “Today we celebrate the World Tourism Day. On that occasion, I am very pleased to have good figures to report for the first part of this year's tourism season – especially because they come at the time when most EU Member countries struggle with high unemployment and economic difficulties. Tourism has always been very high on my agenda, as it employs nearly 20 million people and has links to other key sectors, such as culture, food, fashion, construction and transport. We should continue to find ways to make Europe's tourism sector flourish. Our visa simplification initiative, which aims to attract more tourist from the emerging economies, is a good example of how we can work together to remove policy and administrative barriers to boost economic growth."
Star performers across all regions of Europe
Among the Mediterranean countries, Spain led the way in 2013: it had 34 million tourists between January and July, and a 4 % rise in international arrivals compared to last year. Tourism in Greece has grown by 9.2%, hosting around 7 million tourists in seven months. Malta (+10 %) and Portugal (+8 %) also reported healthy growth. In Northern Europe results were also good but more modest (+3 %), except for the United Kingdom, which recorded a 4 % increase in arrivals following last year’s 2012 London Summer Olympics. France benefited from an increase in international visitors during the summer season, which compensated for a decrease in the number of local tourists.
Star performers in Central and Eastern Europe were Slovakia (+19 %), Latvia (+11 %) and Lithuania (+9 %). Promising results also come from the new EU Member State: Croatia. The country has recorded a 5.4 % increase in arrivals and a 3.3% increase in nights spent compared to 2012 figures. In the month of August only, registered arrivals in Croatia exceeded last year's figures by 10 %. Less satisfactory figures come from Cyprus, where arrivals of tourists decreased by 5.8% for the period January-July 2013.
These new UNWTO World Tourism Barometer figures, along with the data from National Tourism and Statistic Offices, confirm the results of the Flash Eurobarometer survey Attitudes of Europeans towards Tourism (IP/13/200) and go along with the results of the winter and spring seasons which showed positive tourism trends earlier in the year.
European airports also record increased traffic
Key indicators from the aviation industry also confirm the successful trend: travel on European routes grew at a slightly faster rate in 2013 compared to the previous year. For example, nearly 2 million foreign visitors flew to Greece's main airport during the summer season, a boost for the Mediterranean country which relies on tourism to help pull itself out of an economic crisis. Malta also recorded the airport’s best month ever: only in August 500.000 passengers passed through the International airport of the island.
The future: simplifying visas to attract even more tourists
Seeking to further develop Europe's tourism potential, the European Commission is preparing a review of the Visa Code before the end of this year. Its aim is to simplify and improve the visa procedures, in particular for tourists coming from emerging economies such as China and Russia, while ensuring an adequate level of security in the EU. In the last four years, the number of Russian and Chinese visitors to the EU has doubled and flows from India are also increasing rapidly. Yet many potential travellers from countries outside of the EU face visa hurdles when they decide to vacation in Europe. The new initiative aims to eliminate the cumbersome visa processing and attract even more foreign tourists to Europe's mountains, cities and coastlines.