On 8th June 2017, SME EUROPE in cooperation with EPP Group, hosted a Working Lunch event in the European Parliament considering the following thematic: “Let’s talk about EU Tourism – European Tourism Associations” The event featured the following speakers: Cláudia Monteiro de Aguiar MEP, Member of the Committee on Budgets; Iulia Niculica, Secretariat, European Tourism Manifesto for Growth and Jobs; Teodora Marinska, Head of Finance and Public Affairs at the European Travel Commission; Morgan Foulkes, Deputy Director General, Airports Council International Europe; Christian de Barrin, Chief Executive Officer at Hotrec (Hotels, Restaurants and Cafés in Europe); Tim Fairhurst, Head of Strategy and Policy at European Tourism Association, and Francisco Calheiros, President of Portuguese Tourism Confederation.
Cláudia Monteiro de Aguiar MEP welcomed speakers and guests expressing hope for a fruitful debate and inviting participants to share information on the activities they are conducting in the tourism sector as well as points of view, ideas and challenges.
Iulia Niculica, from European Tourism Manifesto for Growth and Jobs presented the Initiative of “European Tourism Manifesto for Growth and Jobs” which is being the firs initiative of the kind in Europe and invited all the associations joining it to secure the common voice and common impact in the EU institutions.
Teodora Marinska from the European Travel Commission briefly introduced the organisation active to strengthen the sustainable development of Europe as a tourism destination as well as marketing Europe as such in local markets and globally, research and exchange on best practices, tackling disadvantages for the tourism private sector. According to Mrs Marinska Europe remains the number one touristic destination however it is losing its market share and this loss is often related to the local and EU policy. The example would be the obstacles for traveling related to the visa restriction policies: promotion of Visa facilitation policies is crucial for the sector for Visas issued in an easier and faster way for minor costs as well as introducing new practices such as e-visas or visa-free regimes. Such terms would foster cooperation with markets like Russia or China and will result in 84 million additional arrivals which equals in 600 000 new jobs related to the tourism sector.
Morgan Foulkes, Deputy Director General of Airports Council International Europe states, that Visa Policies are directly affecting the number of visitors to Europe and these issues have to be highlighted, however, it is also obvious that from geopolitical and security perspective it is not easy to promote Visa facilitation. The ACI Europe calls itself the voice of European Airports with 184 regular members including 508 airports in 45 countries. Some statistics: in 2016 the air traffic grew by 5.1% driven by the performance of the EU traffic which in itself grew by 6,7%; the European airports welcomed more than 2 billion passengers, 3 million passengers more comparing to 2013. Such growth is mainly driven by the low-cost carriers. The core strategy of ACIE is related to the sustainable connectivity and the consumer interest: transit connectivity, or, as example, the Water initiative related to the availability of water at terminal closest to the security checkpoint for the same amount (1 eur) or free of charge (water fountains); Among other objectives – carbon neutral airports by 2030, which is illustrating the contribution the industry can make on a volunteer basis in terms of emission. Among the other topics in the pipeline: the airport charges, the ban of carriage of liquids, ban of electronic devices in the cabin of the aircraft heading to the USA, Brexit and how it will influence mutual traffic conditions, etc.
Christian de Barrin from Hotels, Restaurants, and Cafés in Europe explained that Hotrec is the umbrella association that brings together 41 national associations in 29 European states. The Tourism sector is composed of 1.8 million SMEs, most of which are classified as micro businesses what explains the fragmentation of the industry. He also mentioned that 91% of SMEs of the sector are employing less than 10 employees. Altogether the hospitality sector in Europe secures 10 million jobs positively influencing European GDP. Hotrec is mainly focused on problematics related to Collaborative Economy, which is also part of the initiative launched by Commissioner Bienkowska that brings together various stakeholders from the sector and beyond in order to share expertise; Digitalisation especially related to the platform booking.com; Accessibility related to proper shaping and communication of services to the people with specific needs which represent a 150 million EU citizens and therefore a vast market opportunity; VAT and the benefits of law VAT for job creation, competitiveness and investment. A good example of successful implementation of such practices is Portugal with only 6% VAT rate established for accommodation and 13% VAT rate for restaurants. Keeping VAT rate law for hotels, cafes, restaurants and tourism services is proportional to creating jobs gross. Another important topic worth being promoted is related to the Circular Economy and specifically food waste.
Tim Fairhurst from European Tourism Association mentioned that ETA started its activity in 1980 with predominantly an English speaking board. At the moment the organisation involves stakeholders from all over the world providing all kinds of services to this specific market. ETA is engaging stakeholders at national, regional and local level, organizes B2B networking events for the member organizations, supports a vibrant market and local engagements bringing together in the same room the supply chain, the buyers and policy makers working out what’s the mutual interest.
Francisco Calheiros, President of Portuguese Tourism Confederation concluded the meeting expressing gratitude to Mrs Monteiro de Aguiar for her active engagement in the Tourism sector. For Portugal Tourism is crucial and mainly shaping, together with agricultural sector, the countries GDP, jobs and commercial balance. Mrs Caheiros emphasezed that it is of highly importance for all the tourists associations and confederations appear in Europe as one voice speaking to the European institutions.