Honourable Members of the European Parliament, Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen, Good morning. It's a great pleasure to open this conference and to celebrate European Tourism Day with you today. This is not just a celebration of Europe and its numerous attractions. It's a day where we celebrate you – the tourism operators and entrepreneurs that make Europe one of the leading destinations in the world.

For me, speaking here today is returning to my roots. I have worked in tourism for many years, as Chairman of a hotel management chain, as chairman of a cruise marketing company, and twice as Minister for Tourism in my home country of Malta. And one thing I learned is that this industry is continuously growing, changing and ever more demanding. If you want to stay relevant and keep ahead of your competition you need to study and anticipate the trends. You need to understand your customer demands and expectations and carefully position yourself in the market with innovative and attractive offers.Learn, innovate, adapt. This is what we in Europe need to do now. Because tourism is changing. Holidaymakers are increasingly looking for more than the traditional 'sun, sand and sea' package. They want unique and customised experiences. Destinations and operators have to be innovative and step up their game, by working together and collaborating closely with other sectors, like the cultural and the creative industries.

12 million people, equivalent to 7.5% of the EU's workforce work in the cultural and creative industries. This pool of talent also includes architects and designers, artists and musicians, publishers and producers, marketing managers, software programmers and application creators. We would be foolish to ignore this deep pool of talent. And I know, that many of you have already grasped this business opportunity, and are generating new products, experiences and markets. You are finding fresh ways to promote Europe's richness and open up new paths for European tourism through advertising, film production, fashion design, social media, and mobile applications. Today I want to encourage others to follow. Because I see the opportunities; for new, good jobs and for strong, sustainable growth.

This is particularly true for coastal areas. Let's not forget: Europe is a maritime continent. Our coastline stretches from the Arctic to the Mediterranean, and from the Atlantic to the Black Sea. A total of almost 70,000 kilometres. Coastal regions already accommodate more tourists than anywhere else. Two out of three European tourists prefer to spend their holidays on the coast. Coastal tourism, together with cruise tourism, yachting and marinas, provides almost 3 million jobs. It generates a revenue of 400 billion euros. This is tremendous. But as I said, we cannot afford to stand still.

Faced with fierce competition from around the world, innovation is indispensable to keep you – and Europe – in business. And we need innovation to keep our air, landscapes and waters clean. For instance by turning to state-of-the-art technology to reduce the environmental footprint of the cruise industry and ports. Or re-using and recycling plastic instead of letting it end up in our ocean as marine litter. In the new circular economy plastic is being recycled to produce shoes, dresses, sunglasses – and even football kits – as they are doing for Bayern Munich and Real Madrid! Because Europe's natural treasures are some of our greatest tourist assets. So going green especially in the tourism industry, is not just good for the environment. It's good for business.

So what can the European Commission do to help you innovate, create, and upgrade your offer in the maritime area? Part of this answer is in our 'European Strategy for more Growth and Jobs in Coastal and Maritime Tourism'. We have looked specifically into innovative tourism strategies for coastal regions, and at business models that are proving successful on the ground. So do have a look at this study which came out earlier this year. If you're thinking about revising your coastal region's tourism strategy, the "Blue Experience Innovation Roadmap" within that study may be a useful guiding tool. And stay tuned for the online map of Europe's maritime heritage sights that we are currently preparing! We are updating our "Atlas of the Seas" with info on underwater and coastal highlights. This will make it a handy holidaymaker's guide to local attractions. A great way to drum up new business! I could mention so much more. But today I want to focus on three main ways the Commission can give you a helping hand. And that is funding new ideas, fostering dialogue, and promoting Europe overseas.

Let me start with funding new ideas. Today, the European Commission is making available 1.5 million euros for the creation of nautical routes. Maybe you represent a museum in a coastal area. Or you have a set of landmark buildings you would like to promote. Or you live in a coastal city that has inspired a famous film or TV series. Under today's call for proposals, you can become part of a transnational 'nautical route' linking different maritime heritage sites. It's a novel way for hobby sailors and water sports lovers to discover a different side of their holiday destination. Today's announcement follows an earlier call for underwater cultural routes that bring the treasures of our ocean closer to the public. One of the selected projects will take hobby divers on an underwater journey of the Adriatic Sea, to explore ancient archaeological heritage. Have a look online – and let yourselves be inspired!

Finally, the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund can also finance projects for the creative and cultural tourism industry. 'Fishtagram', a new app developed in Gran Canaria is one such project. It's a fun way for tourists, divers, anglers, fishermen and others to share pictures of their fisheries experiences. It also enhances visitors' experiences by providing information on fish species, including their conservation status. If you have your own idea, our new 'Guide on Funding for Coastal and Maritime Tourism' gives a helpful overview of available EU funding.

The second way we can help you is by fostering dialogue. Nothing is more conducive to new ideas and projects than getting people into the same room, talking to each other. Just like we are doing today. And just like we are doing for cruise tourism, with the Pan-European Dialogue for Cruise Tourism that we started last year. Cruise tourism is booming. Total economic output reached more than 40 billion euros in 2014. This includes 16.6 billion euros in direct spending by cruise lines, their passengers and crew. Last year the industry accounted for nearly 350,000 European jobs – 10,000 more than the year before. Just think of the possibilities this opens up for the cultural and creative industries! Whether digital destination guides or mobile apps – cruise tourists are a huge market waiting to be tapped.

We know there are great ideas out there. Maritime museums in Germany, Poland, Lithuania and Russia have developed a joint online presence and ticketing system. They are marketing themselves as 'Baltic Museums 2.0'. Our Cruise Dialogue wants to extend that type of innovative cooperation to cruise tourism. It brings together the cruise industry, port authorities, tourist offices, museums, hotels. Last year we organised a regional dialogue for the Mediterranean. Last month it was the Baltic. And more will follow because we are already seeing results.

Cruise destinations are getting together to better promote their regions. They are working with cruise companies to develop attractive local offers for cruise tourists during their stop-over. In this respect, the Mediterranean is already the world's second popular cruise destination. Which brings me to my third and final point: promoting European tourism overseas.

Last week was my latest visit to China to promote environmental partnerships.The strong links between China and the EU are growing ever stronger. 12.5 million Chinese tourists visited Europe last year. This makes China one of our most important source of visitors, together with the United States. And the Chinese middle class is growing, offering us an enormous potential. This is a great opportunity for Europe's tourism industry – if we manage to develop new offers that meet their needs. Next year, the Commission will launch a marketing campaign in China which will prepare the ground for the EU-China Year of Tourism in 2018. We are also cooperation with China on maritime and coastal cultural tourism during the EU-China Blue Year in 2017.I am sure Commissioner Bienkowska will say more about the marketing campaign this afternoon. So let me just say that it will also highlight Europe's rich maritime history and heritage.

Finally, let's not forget about European tourists looking for their beach holiday abroad. These international destinations are valuable markets for European tour operators and others in the European tourism chain such as hotel management groups and airlines. But this sector will only continue to grow if those coasts and beaches are managed sustainably. That is one of the reasons we launched an initiative on International Ocean Governance three weeks ago. It's a call for international action and cooperation to keep the world's oceans clean and healthy. Because we can only achieve that by working together – a point which I continue to raise wherever I travel, including in China last week.

Ladies and gentlemen, funding new ideas, fostering dialogue and collaboration, and promoting Europe to the world is how the Commission is making European tourism more competitive, more innovative, and more attractive. The cultural and creative industries can play an outstanding role in this regard. But in the end it all comes down to one essential ingredient: you. Your enthusiasm, your creativity, your spirit of entrepreneurship, and your commitment to quality. It is now up to you. This is our industry, and it is you who determine its future.

Thank you, and count on our support.



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