European Union Tourism Policy
Update June 2013
European Parliament’s Tourism Task Force holds inaugural meeting
On March 26th the European Parliament’s Tourism Taskforce held its first meeting. The meeting was chaired by MEP Brian Simpson (S&D, UK) and was addressed by Commission Vice-President Tajani who updated MEPs on the Commissions activities on some key tourism related dossiers.
On Visa policy the Commissioner referred to the recent communication on visa facilitation and stressed the common efforts undertaken between DG Enterprise and DG Justice in order to facilitate visas to enter the Schengen space without neglecting security
On the EU Tourism Quality Label the Commissioner announced the upcoming regulation which is expected at the beginning of July. This piece of legislation will aim at establishing an umbrella quality system for all EU countries
On Seasonality he reiterated the role of Calypso project and the 50.000 Tourists initiatives. On the use of funds, in 2012 the Commission had been mapping the economic impact of tourism. This year there are four priorities such as greater cooperation with destination managers, encouraging high quality initiatives, people with disabilities, training, wider use of innovation.
Update November 2012
EU takes steps to make it easier for third country nationals to travel in Europe
On the 7th November the European Commission published a strategic Communication document examining how the execution of the common visa policy could be improved to facilitate travel opportunities for third country nationals.
With a total of 18.8 million jobs in 2011, tourism is one of the largest generators of employment in the EU. In 2011 foreign visitor spending amounted to €330.44 billion. These figures are projected to rise to 20.4 million jobs and €427.31 billion by 2022.
The Commission identified several changes to the application of the existing Visa Code by Member States' consulates. In particular, consulates should enforce the 15 days deadline for granting an appointment as well as reaching any decision on visa applications, availability of application forms in the language of the consulates’ host country and the availability of multiple-entry visas.
The Commission also set out a number of long-term changes to streamline forms and procedures as well as harmonising visa practices in the Schengen area.
European Commission close to adopting a European Quality Label for Tourism.
The Commission will make a proposal for a European Tourism Quality Label at the end of March 2013. In October the Commission published a preparatory study conducted by the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) . The study was prepared using market analysis and two surveys, one targeting consumers and one targeting businesses affiliated to existing quality schemes.
The study identifies 30 existing schemes of varying scope, criteria and governance. Stakeholder contributions tended to back a European scheme on the basis that existing fragmentation is confusing for consumers and businesses. However, any scheme should be bottom-up, complementary to existing schemes, voluntary, free of charge, and simple access.
Commission publishes study on the impact of EU policies on levels of tourism
In October, the European Commission published a study on the impact of EU policies on tourism. IAAPA was one of 20 tourism stakeholders consulted as part of the research for the final report. The report highlights the following challenges for tourism businesses:
- Difference of implementation on business regulation, taxation on social security among MS and sub sectors
- Different impact of legislation across sub –sectors.
- The seasonality of tourism activity
- Uneven regional development
- Insufficiently skilled workforce
Its proposed solution is greater ‘mainstreaming’ of tourism issues across different policy areas in the European Commission to ensure that the needs of the tourism sector are taken into account in every policy decision.
European Parliament increases focus on tourism with new task force
To coordinate the work of MEPs on tourism policy, the Parliament’ s Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN) has set up a Tourism Task Force. The task force has 15 MEP members and has a mandate to:
- monitor and follow actions started by the Commission which are related with Tourism
- involve various stakeholders of the sector to propose concrete measures to be suggested to the Commission
- highlight certain political priorities related to Tourism;
- study the possibility of setting-up a budget line for Tourism.
On October 9, the Committee held an exchange of views on the taskforce’s key priorities over the next year. These priorities include:
- Cooperation with other parts of the European Institutions on tourism policy.
- Accessibility and seasonality: The Parliament will draft an own-initiative report on seasonality and accessibility.
- Attracting new tourism flows: Mr. Fidanza highlights the development of a clear European brand and reform of common visa policy as priorities for the taskforce.
- Quality: The task force will hold a hearing on the EU tourism quality label during 2013
The first full meeting of the task force will be in the first quarter 2013.
Update June 2012
European tourism quality label
IAAPA Europe will shortly be responding to the European Commission's (EC) consultation on its proposals for a new pan-European quality label. Full details of these are available on the website of the EC's Tourism Policy Development Unit.
Interested members are welcome also to take part in the consultation. The deadline for comments is Friday, 13th July.
In the meantime, here, for ease of reference, is a revised summary of some of the issues involved:
What is being proposed?
A new European umbrella label for existing (and future) national, regional and sectoral quality labels. It will not be a new classification scheme of the type used for tourist accommodation. Instead, it will be a scheme similar in scope to labels such as the French Qualité tourisme label and the Spanish Q mark.
Why is the label being proposed?
The EC believes that the current labels are a barrier to "the creation of a competitive advantage" for European tourism and to "reinforcement of the perception of Europe as a set of sustainable, responsible and high-quality destinations".
They think that a pan-European label would complement the existing ones, increasing "consumer confidence in tourism products" and helping tourism professionals to provide "quality tourism service". It would also help Europe to compete more effectively in international tourism markets.
Which sectors will be covered by the label?
Any sectors for which there are national, regional or sectoral quality schemes.
Who can join
Existing (and future) national, regional and sectoral quality labels.
Can individual attractions join?
No. However, if they are members of quality labels recognised by the European scheme, they will be entitled to use the new label in their marketing and promotional activities. They should not have to pay extra for this privilege.
Will the label be voluntary or mandatory?
It will be voluntary. References in the consultation document to the possibility of a mandatory scheme are, it seems, included for completeness' sake - to demonstrate that all options have been considered. The EC's Tourism Development Policy Unit insist that their plans are for a voluntary scheme.
Could it be more than just a quality label?
The consultation document does mention the possibility of extending the label to cover criteria other than purely quality criteria.
- Environmental criteria - one idea suggested is that the new label should be linked to the EU ecolabel for tourist accommodation (irrelevant to those attractions without accommodation on site) and/or to the EU's Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS), which is a voluntary initiative designed to improve businesses' environmental performance.
- Broader criteria - other ideas include extending the scheme to cover accessibility for disabled people, employee satisfaction and corporate social responsibility (ie the way in which businesses work with their employees, suppliers and the local community, and their impact on the environment).
Will it really cost nothing to be a part of the European label?
These environmental and other broader criteria are all issues of importance to European policymaking. However, if included in the criteria for the quality label, they could also mean that existing schemes have to incur significant extra costs in adapting their criteria to comply with the European ones. The fear must be that these costs are passed on to their member businesses.
What will the criteria be?
16 possibilities are mentioned on pages 10 and 11 of the consultation questionnaire. They cover issues including the need to undergo regular quality assessment, the creation of a mechanism for handling complaints, the provision of information on local services and products, staff training, and maintenance and cleaning procedures.
How will the European label be implemented?
Through EU legislation - a "regulation" which would have to be debated and approved by the European Parliament and the member states in the Council. This does not, however, affect the label's status as "volontary". The current European ecolabels are implemented in the same way and remains entirely volontary.
How will the label be managed?
By a specially created European board. Member states will be able, if they wish, to set up "national governance bodies" to carry out "pre-assessment" of applications and help in the administration and promotion of the label in their respective countries. Final decisions on membership of the label will be the responsibility of the European board.
Tourism and information/communication technologies (ICT)
In the February update of this newsletter, we mentioned a European Commission initiative to encourage greater use of tourism technologies by businesses in the different sectors.
One part of this project is what has been described as a "practical support portal" that will help tourismn businesses in their decision-making and business processes. The portal should be ready by the end of 2013. It has the working name of Tourismlink.
The aim of Tourismlink is to "facilitate and accelerate the digital connection between smaller local service providers in the broader tourism industry (hospitality, tourism, culture and leisure) and larger travel agents, tour operators and distributors. This will allow tourism enterprises to respond better and more quickly to the evolving market [demand for] more tailor-made, personalised tourism".
The consortium developing the new portal is led by IAAPA's NET colleagues, Ectaa, with the support of Hotrec and technological institutes from Spain and Italy. They have invited all NET members to take part in a workshop in Brussels on 11th July. IAAPA will be represented at this workshop.
For more information, please visit the Tourismlink website. There are plans to create an online community on this website before very long.
Tourism event at the European Parliament
Hotrec, IAAPA's colleagues in NET, organised a seminar in the European Parliament on 19th June to discuss the place of the hospitality sector (and, by implication, tourism generally) in EU policymaking.
Addressing the seminar, the EC vice-president and commissioner in charge of tourism policy, Antonio Tajani, demonstrated once again his strong interest in the development of European tourism. He spoke enthusiastically about tourism's role as a force for economic development and is anxious to bring tourism representatives together with their colleagues from other sectors to discuss joint initiatives. He particularly mentioned the construction and fashion sectors - he has policy responsibility for these within the Commission.
Mr Tajani also announced that the Commission is looking at ways of changing visa policy to make it easier for the EU to attract tourism from important developing markets outside Europe. (There is already a visa facilitation agreement with Russia.)
Update April 2012
European tourism quality label
The European Commission has just published a consultation document seeking comments on the creation of its long-cherished European tourism quality label. IAAPA Europe will be taking part in the consultation process, which ends on 13th July. Would members benefit from a European quality label?
The final proposals for the label are not expected until at least the end of the year.
The basic principles for the label were set out in the February edition of this newsletter, but some of the issues covered in the current consultation documents are new and will have to be examined closely by IAAPA Europe in drafting its response to the consultation. These include:
• The possibility that the proposed European label will cover sustainability issues, especially those relating to environmental impact.
• The prospect of existing schemes having to revise their own criteria in order to meet the European ones. This will inevitably increase the costs associated with the European scheme.
• The option of a compulsory European quality label. (Almost certain not to happen, but it seems that procedures require the EC to explore this option among all the others in the consultation paper.)
As the public consultation gets underway, the EC is also commissioning a full impact assessment for the proposals in the document. This is being done by consultants and will probably take about four months. Meanwhile, negotiations between the EC's tourism officials and officials in other parts of the Commission are already underway.
Full details of the consultation and the thinking behind the proposal are available on the Enterprise and Industry pages of the European Commission website.
Study of EU legislation affecting tourism
The research stage of this work - during which IAAPA Europe was consulted - is now complete. The final report will be published during the summer/early autumn.
The project includes the publication of a guide to EU funds that are available to tourism businesses. The Commission is anxious to produce something of real value to the industry and something that is accessible and easily understood.
Meanwhile, another part of the Commission has published a very concise guide to funding programmes that are available to small and medium-sized businesses. It is not particularly user-friendly, but does highlight the role of the EU's Enterprise Europe Network in advising businesses on the availability of EU funding. Copies are available from the EC's Europa website.
Promotion of Europe as a tourism destination
The European Commission has appointed a communications agency, Mostra, to oversee the development of a new communications strategy to support the promotion of Europe as a destination. This will be mainly a PR strategy, concentrating on media relations, online activity (Facebook fan pages, microsites, competitions etc.) and organising an EU presence at certain events.
One of Mostra's first tasks will be to support the current project aimed at encouraging South American visitors to visit Europe during the (European) low season. This project, dubbed the "50,000 visitors" (50K) campaign and still awaiting a more lasting and appropriate name, is the brainchild of Antonio Tajani, a vice-president of the Commission and the commissioner in charge of tourism policy. It was originally conceived with the aim of attracting 25,000 visitors to Europe and encouraging 25,000 Europeans to visit South America.
Various EU member states, South American countries, airlines, trade associations (IAAPA's NET colleagues representing travel agents, ECTAA, and incoming tour operators, ETOA) and other companies have signed up to the project. The EC is acting as co-ordinator, bringing the public and private sector together to create packages offering travel to more than just one country. Even at this late stage, the aim is for the first South American visitors under the scheme to arrive in Europe this October.
New EU market research
For the last four years, the EU's Eurobarometer survey has researched the attitudes of Europeans towards tourism, highlighting in particular their travel preferences and patterns. The results of the most recent survey were published in March and showed that 72% of EU citizens travelled in 2011, while 80% plan to do so in 2012. Most prefer to take their holidays in Europe.
The survey was carried out in January, with interviews being conducted in all 27 EU member states and a number of other European countries. The sample size was 30,000.
For a summary of the survey's findings, see the European Commission's press release.
As we reported in June 2011, there is a new EU regulation intended to improve the collection and publication of European tourism statistics. One of the consequences of this and the EU's new tourism powers under the treaties is a desire by Eurostat, the Commission's statistical office, to do more to support tourism businesses.
Eurostat is now carrying out a user satisfaction survey on the tourism statistics that it produces. It is particularly interested to know why and how people use these statistics. If you are interested in taking part in the survey, you can do so online here.
European charter for sustainable and responsible tourism
This is a new proposal from the European Commission, reflecting the importance attached to sustainability issues in its policy agenda.
The purpose of the charter is twofold:
• to encourage sustainable and responsible tourism policies and actions across Europe, and
• to act as a common reference document on sustainability for all those involved in tourism.
Among its aims are the following to
• promote sustainable management by destinations and responsible best practices by tourism enterprises; and to
• raise awareness of the industry, especially of the small and micro enterprises, on the importance of following sustainability and responsibility principles.
It is not clear yet precisely how the charter will be implemented. The results of a recent policy consultation are still awaited. The ideas put forward include inviting organisations (trade associations, businesses) to sign up to the charter and publishing the full list of signatories, and creating an award scheme designed to recognise best practice in implementing the charter.
The Commission has appointed consultants to develop a "European system of indicators for the sustainable management of destinations". Work started in December 2011 and is expected to be complete by the end of this year.
Update February 2012
European tourism quality label
The European Commission (EC) has published an updated implementation plan for the programme of tourism policy activities identified in last year's tourism strategy. It is dated 16th January and is available on the EC's website.
European tourism quality label
Delegates at the conference held in Brussels on 25th January were left in no doubt that this initiative, driven by EC vice-president Tajani, will go ahead. Commission officials are aiming to publish firm proposals in time for this year's European Tourism Forum, which will be held in Cyprus on 25th and 26th October.
What is the label?
The plan is to create a European umbrella label that will recognise other national, regional and sectoral labels which meet its criteria.
Membership will be voluntary and open to those other labels rather than individual businesses. Businesses signed up to an accredited label should automatically be entitled to use the European label in their marketing and promotional activities - and at no extra cost to them.
Vice-president Tajani regards the label as an important part of his plans to promote Europe as a single destination, acting as a symbol of the quality of European tourism.
The scope of the label
Despite initial indications that the label would apply only to accommodation businesses (at least to begin with), it is now likely that the scope will be widened to include all tourism sectors from the outset, including visitor attractions.
Management of the label
Full details of this are awaited, but the clear preference at the January conference was for the label to be run centrally at a European level.
The EC needs to use legislation to introduce the label, even though membership of the scheme will be voluntary. It is currently planning that this will be through an EU regulation designed to ensure a harmonised approach across Europe.
The EC is planning to open a public consultation after Easter on ideas for implementing the label. This consultation will last 8 weeks.
The final proposal should be published in time for the European Tourism Forum.
Once published, the proposal will be considered by national governments in the Council and also by the European Parliament. The Parliament is likely to support the proposal, but there are doubts in some member states. One or two query the "added value" of the label or suggest that the EC is exceeding the powers set out in the Lisbon Treaty for EU tourism activities.
The aim is for the scheme to be approved in 2013.
[If approved, the label will be the first measure ever to have been adopted using the tourism powers in the Lisbon Treaty.]
The European Commission has been allocated €1 million by the European Parliament to launch an initiative on tourism and accessibility this year.
This was announced at a European Parliament seminar on 9th February on tourism and accessibility which was run by the Parliament's Christian Democrat group (the European People's Party or EPP) and chaired by Carlo Fidanza, the member (MEP) who co-ordinated last year's parliamentary report on the EC tourism strategy.
The aim of the new initiative is to prepare the way for future projects designed to make European tourism more accessible to people with disabilities.
Speaking at the EPP seminar, the EC vice-president, Antonio Tajani, said that going on holiday was a human right and insisted that many tourist sites did not respect minimum accessibility standards. He referred to the UN's "Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities" which the EU has signed as have, individually, 20 of its member states.
Mr Tajani hinted that the new quality label would include accessibility criteria.
New EC initiative
The Parliament's funding will be spent on three main activities:
• A demand and supply study for accessible tourism in Europe. This would aim to achieve a "better understanding of the needs and expectations of disabled tourists" and also assess the level of facilities that exist to meet this demand.
• An assessment of the skills needed by tourism staff "to improve accessibility and safety for all" and the training that is available already. Mr Tajani spoke of hotel staff and restaurant waiters knowing how to help people with disabilities. The most recent version of the EC's tourism work programme refers to "the development of a 'culture of care' in the tourism supply chain".
• Awareness raising - development of a "set of tools" that will help businesses to invest in this area and recognise that there are "more benefits than disadvantages" in doing so. The work programme speaks of "marketing and information actions".
Thought is also being given to creating an award scheme that recognises the efforts of European destinations to work with operators in improving accessibility standards and promoting them to the public. This will be based on the Access City award run by the EC directorate-general for justice.
DG Justice has overall policy responsibility for disability issues in the European Commission. The official in charge of this work spoke at the EPP seminar and suggested that European standardisation procedures could be used to develop European accessibility standards.
The EC is also working on proposals for a new European Accessibilty Act, the idea for which is described by the EC press release as aiming "to ensure that people with disabilities have access, on an equal basis with others to the physical environment, to transport and to information and communication services. It will also benefit people with limited mobility, such as the elderly".
The new proposals follow the European disability strategy published in 2010 which seeks to create "a barrier-free Europe for disabled people by 2020" and "outlines how the EU and national governments can empower people with disabilities so that they can enjoy their rights".
Study of EU legislation affecting tourism
The European Commission has started work on this study which seeks to get a better understanding of the way in which EU legislation affects tourism businesses. It has appointed independent consultants to carry out this study on its behalf and has instructed them to consult specific relevant organisations. IAAPA is one of these.
The organisations to be consulted are being sent questionnaires drawn up by the consultants with the EC's Tourism Policy Development Unit. These will be followed by face-to-face meetings or telephone discussions with the consultants.
The questionnaire will include questions on the availability of EU funding to tourism businesses.
The final report should be ready by April/May this year.
Tourism industry representatives have long argued that the EC's tourism officials should concentrate more on general EU legislative issues affecting tourism businesses, ensuring that tourism concerns are taken fully into account into the drafting of new legislation or the preparation of new policies. The EC's answer has been to initiate this study and also to establish better links between tourism officials and those in other parts of the Commission. This is a welcome initiative and reflects the increasing seriousness with which tourism is viewed throughout the European institutions.
Tourism and ICT (information and communication technologies) platform
This new project has now been formally launched. Its overall aim is to facilitate the "digital integration" of small and medium-sized tourism businesses in destinations, encouraging these to work more closely with larger travel agents, tour operators and distributors in origin markets in meeting market demand for "more tailor-made, personalised tourism".
As is the way with all these projects, it has been given a contrived acronym - P.ICT.URISM. The contract has been given to a consortium led by IAAPA's partners in NET, ECTAA (European travel agents) and HOTREC (European hospitality sector) and involving leading organisations in the development of tourism technologies. It will run for 30 months, finishing in 2014.
P.ICT.URISM is part of the European Commission’s “ICT for Tourism Initiative”, which also provides for a new "high-level expert group" to be set up along with an ICT and tourism portal that will help tourism businesses in each step of their decision-making and business processes.
Preparation for this new project, a 'virtual' observatory providing a database and library of information on market trends, tourism policy analysis and issues such as demographic and climate change, is now underway. The first stage is a feasibility study, the contract for which was let to external consultants in December 2011. Completion of the study is expected by the end of 2012.
Update December 2011
The European Commission (EC) has published an updated implementation plan for the programme of tourism policy activities identified in last year's tourism strategy. It is dated 26th September and is available on the EC's website.
The EC's implementation plan is ambitious, covering 14 pages of activities and their intended results. A later, unpublished version of the plan goes up to 17 pages. Some observers feel that the programme is too ambitious and diffuse, but the fact remains that more is happening now in the name of tourism policy than at any other time in the history of the European Union.
Developments in activities of particular interest to the attractions sector include the following:
• Marketing Europe as a tourism destination: the plan is intended to "consolidate the image and profile of Europe as a collection of sustainable and high-quality tourist destinations" and to do so creating a "true Europe brand".
Tenders have already been invited from companies interested in working with the Commission to develop and implement a communication strategy for tourism in Europe. There is an additional initiative focussing specifically on emerging long-haul markets such as Latin America and Russia, India and China - this work, known informally as the "50,000 visitors initiative" is already underway.
Co-operation between the EC and the European Travel Commission (ETC, the pan-European organisation representing national tourist offices) is also being strengthened, raising the prospect of joint marketing campaigns and further development of ETC's visiteurope.com web portal.
• Diversifying the supply of tourist services: this includes the EDEN network of emerging destinations and plans to identify and promote "transnational thematic tourism products" such as cultural routes.
The work started by the Calypso project to promote off-season tourism will also continue. The BBC's Fast Track programme recently did a report on this programme - http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/fast_track/9644082.stm (Link valid on 30th November.)
• Creation of an ICT (information and communication technologies) platform to help tourism businesses become more competitive through greater awareness and understanding of developments in new technologies. The contract for this work is expected to be let shortly. It will include a web portal acting as a "one-stop shop" for tourism businesses on technological issues and a platform designed to connect small businesses to the "different existing big digital networks at an affordable cost".
• Creation of a "virtual tourism observatory" to provide a database and library of information on market trends, tourism policy analysis and such issues as demographic and climate change. This, too, is the subject of an EC call for tender and work is expected to start during 2012.
• European quality label: following a consultation in the autumn, the European Commission will be holding a conference in Brussels on 25th January 2012 to discuss their plans in more detail. At this stage, only the accommodation sector is likely to be offered the chance to apply for an EU label, but this does not rule out the scheme being extended to other industry sectors (including visitor attractions?) at a later stage.
NET members discussed the initiative with EC representatives at their meeting in September. Many questioned the value of, and the need for, such a label. The Commission stressed that it would be an umbrella label that recognised existing national quality schemes. Ultimately, if it goes ahead, its success or failure will depend on the take up by the tourism industry.
All these EC projects are being financed by funding derived from a range of EC funding programmes not specifically focussing on tourism. This is a hangover from the pre-Lisbon Treaty days when no dedicated tourism budgets were available because of the lack of European tourism policy powers. EC budgets are planned over six-/seven-year periods and next budgetary period will be 2014-2020. Efforts are currently being made to secure a budget line for tourism activities during that period.
Update October 2011
The report finally adopted last month is broadly the same as the one adopted in the summer by its sponsoring committee, the Transport and Tourism Committee. A press release and a copy of the final version of the report can be found on the Parliament's website:
• press release.
We highlighted some of the main points in previous editions of the newsletter. They can be found in the following paragraphs in the report:
• Co-ordination of tourism policy with other relevant EU policies - see paragraphs 2 and 3.
• A call for EC-run tourism marketing campaigns - paragraph 8.
• A "European Tourism Card" offering discounts and information on tourists' rights - paragraph 23.
• A "European quality tourism label" - paragraph 25.
• Harmonisation of classification systems - paragraph 27.
• Fire safety - paragraph 28.
• Sustainable tourism - from paragraph 38 onwards.
• Reform of the package travel directive - paragraph 73.
• VAT - paragraph 74.
• Tourist taxes - paragraph 75.
This is a non-legislative report. It is essentially a response to the tourism strategy published by the European Commission in 2010 and gives the views of MEPs on the initiatives proposed. The Commission is under no obligation to take these views into account when implementing the strategy.
It remains an important and influential report nevertheless, and not least because it is the first tourism document published by the Parliament since the Lisbon Treaty came into force in 2010. This is the first European treaty which gives the European institutions specific tourism policy powers. It is no longer the member states alone who have policy responsibility for the sector.
The European Commission, meanwhile, continues to implement its programme. Recent developments include publication of a call for tenders from organisations interested in promoting Europe as a destination in non-European markets - and especially those in Latin America (Argentina, Brazil and Chile) with which the Commission is developing its so-called "50,000 visitors" initiative. It has also recruited consultants to help it get a better grasp of the non-tourism policy issues of particular concern to tourism businesses, and there are plans to develop initiatives in cultural tourism and the promotion of industrial heritage.
Update August 2011
Fidanza report on tourism policy
MEPs (members of the European Parliament) are more engaged with tourism policy than ever before, largely because of the new tourism powers in the Lisbon Treaty. They proposed over 260 amendments to the text drafted by Carlo Fidanza MEP and many of these are reflected in the committee's final text.
We highlighted a few of Mr Fidanza's main ideas in April (see below), but the additions voted by the Transport and Tourism Committee in June include the following:
• Much stronger insistence on the need to assess the impact of non-tourism policy measures on tourism and a call for "a system which genuinely promotes tourism". This reflects calls made by IAAPA and other industry bodies and is very welcome. (By 'non-tourism policy measures' is meant policies in other areas which affect tourism: eg employment legislation, taxation, consumer policy.)
• A call for EC-run tourism marketing campaigns (in association with national and regional campaigns).
• Strengthened references to accommodation safety, including a call for "alternative regulatory actions [to] be taken wherever self-regulation fails".
• A call for reduced rates of VAT on tourism to be harmonised across Europe "as a necessary condition for transparent competition between tourist companies within the EU and with non-EU countries". At present some countries apply reduced rates to tourism services and some do not - and where there are reduced rates, they usually vary from one country to another.
• A very welcome recognition of industry concerns about taxes on tourism, including local city taxes, and airport and fuel duties. Some industry bodies, notably the European Tour Operators' Association (our colleagues in NET), are concerned about the often very short notice with which such taxes are introduced or increased. While the EU has no powers in this area, there is nothing to stop it speaking up on the industry's behalf.
The report now goes to the Parliament as a whole in September for final ratification by all MEPs. Although not binding on the European Union institutions, it is an important report and the high level of political interest in it is bound to have an impact on future tourism policy activities and developments.
European quality label
This project was first mentioned in the EC's tourism policy programme last year when it was described as idea "based on existing national experience, to increase consumer security and confidence in tourism products and reward rigorous efforts by tourism professionals whose aim is quality of tourism service for customer satisfaction". The intention was to create an umbrella scheme that built on national and regional schemes in the member states.
Work is now fully underway and is being driven forward with some speed by an official from the private office of Antonio Tajani, the European commissioner in charge of tourism policy. The aim is to have the details of the scheme finalised by the end of this year (2011). It will be an entirely voluntary scheme.
Discussions are continuing on the scope of the scheme and the way in which it will be managed. The initial aim appears to be to focus on tourist accommodation. Representatives of hotels, campsites, youth hostels and tour operators are among those taking part in the discussions with European and national officials.
Detailed proposals are expected to be available in time for a conference in November.
There is no discussion as yet of extending the scheme to visitor attractions, but the IAAPA Europe will continue to monitor developments.
ICT and tourism platform
The European Commission held a meeting in May to launch discussions on this project (also included in last year's tourism policy programme).
Precisely what this project is intended to create is not yet clear. All that is known is that
• It is aimed specifically at small and medium-sized enterprises, helping them to adapt to developments in new information technologies and thus to increase their competitiveness.
• It is inspired by platforms already created for the fashion industry, automotive industry and the transport/logistics sector.
The May meeting was attended by tourism trade associations (including a number of NET members) and technology bodies such as Amadeus (the global distribution system) and the Open Travel Alliance. Some of these advocated a platform offering marketing support; others wanted it to support back-office systems. The discussion was highly technical at times.
The officials responsible seem now to recognise the diversity and complexity of the tourism sector in comparison with the other sectors that have ICT platforms already. As a result, they are talking about setting up a dedicated forum with industry representatives to discuss tourism and ICT issues and see how a platform could help. This is a positive development, but the conclusion that this is driven more by political imperatives than an identified need is almost inescapable.
Meanwhile, the Commission is already pressing ahead with a pilot project intended as the "first measure towards the implementation of the ICT and tourism platform". The call for tenders for this was published at the end of June. The budget allocated is €2 million and the project is scheduled to last 2½ years.
The 5 phases of this pilot project are broadly as follows:
1. Market analysis of the tourism industry - the extent of ICT integration; the systems used.
2. Development of simple, cost-effective processes and specificiations (not software) allowing transactions and data exchange between companies and their customers.
3. Demonstration projects/prototypes which will be used to refine the processes developed and show why SMEs should get involved.
4. Drafting of proposals to maintain the framework once the pilot project is complete.
5. Awareness-raising campaign to get businesses to adopt the new framework: publications and other publicity material; public conference; training sessions.
The whole thing will be overseen by the Commission and an advisory group including several "external experts" nominated by member states.
Update June 2011
The European Commission's Tourism Unit continues to work on implementing the new tourism policy programme.
The projects currently being pursued by the Commission include the following:
• A scheme to increase low-season tourism traffic between Latin America and Europe.
• Continuation of the Eden scheme, which seeks to promote sustainable tourism in new destinations.
• Continuation of the Calypso project, which is intended reduce tourism's seasonality by giving "Europe's less-privileged citizens" the opportunity to travel in the low season. Target groups include people with disabilities, senior citizens, low-income families and "underprivileged young adults aged between 18 and 30".
• The development of 'thematic' European tourism routes.
• The creation of an online tourism 'observatory' featuring tourism statistics, reports on market trends and developments, and analysis of national tourism policies and policy proposals. A call for tender has just been published seeking bids from organisations interested in carrying out a feasibility study on the idea.
• The construction of an ICT and tourism platform intended to help small and medium-sized tourism businesses make more use of information and communication technologies (or to facilitate their participation in the "digital supply chain").
The European Parliament's Transport and Tourism Committee has postponed its vote on the draft report by Carlo Fidanza on EU tourism policy.
Update April 2011
Following its public consultation at the turn of the year, the European Commission's Tourism Unit has made a start on implementing the new policy programme. Meanwhile, the European Parliament's Transport and Tourism Committee has published its draft report on the programme. The committee is expected to vote on the report at the end of May; the Parliament as a whole will have its say at the end of June.
In its comments on the Tourism Unit's programme, IAAPA Europe placed strong emphasis on the need for the unit to be proactive in ensuring that other parts of the Commission are fully aware of the implications of their policy proposals for tourism businesses and markets. We also urged the EC to place more emphasis on market-driven initiatives and marketing support and less on supply issues. A copy of IAAPA's response may be found here.
The draft report by the European Parliament's rapporteur, Carlo Fidanza MEP, is broadly supportive of the Commission programme. It endorses the emphasis on tourism-specific measures while apparently attaching much less importance to the impact of other policy measures on tourism. The non-tourism issues that it does mention include VAT rates, reform of the package travel directive and visa policy.
Among the ideas put forward by Mr Fidanza are the following:
• A European tourism card offering discounts to tourists.
• Gradual harmonisation of national accommodation classification systems, inspired by the Hotrec Hotelstars initiative. [Hotrec is the EU umbrella body for the hospitality sector.]
• 'Paying due attention' to accommodation safety.
• Progressive harmonisation of VAT rates across Europe in the interests of competition. [See IAAPA Europe's separate article on the EC's VAT green paper.]
• Creation of a tourism task force in the Parliament including 'experts from the tourism sector'.
At the time of writing, news of the draft amendments to the report has just arrived. There are over 260 of them, which indicates the seriousness with which the Parliament now views tourism following the creation of EU tourism powers by the Lisbon Treaty.
Update February 2011
In December, the European Commission's Tourism Unit launched a public consultation on its draft plan for implementing the new policy. IAAPA Europe will respond to this consultation on behalf of its members.
Update December 2010
Europe, the world's no. 1 tourist destination - a political framework for tourism in Europe, the European Commission's (EC) proposed new tourism policy for the European Union, was published at the end of June. This is the first policy statement issued since the Lisbon Treaty came into force and gave the EU its first ever pan-European tourism powers. The full text is available here.
Member states meeting in the EU's Competitiveness Council have already given their approval to the policy; the European Parliament is still working on its opinion.
The Commission has organised its tourism policy around the following four objectives:
• Stimulating competitiveness in the European tourism sector.
o This divides into -
- Promoting diversification of the supply of tourist services
- Developing innovation in the tourism industry
- Improving professional skills
- Encouraging an extension of the tourist season
- Consolidating the socio-economic knowledge base for tourism.
• Promoting the development of sustainable, responsible and high-quality tourism.
• Consolidating the image and profile of Europe as a collection of sustainable high-quality destinations.
• Maximising the potential of EU policies and existing financial instruments for developing tourism. (This includes monitoring EU legislative initiatives and assessing their impact on tourism.)
The new policy document sets out 21 possible actions for meeting the four objectives. Actions of particular interest to IAAPA Europe members include:
• Ensuring "better integration of tourism" into EC policies so that European legislation "releases the sector's full competitive potential". This means taking tourism's interests fully into account in the policymaking process across all areas of EU activity - long been the top priority for industry representatives. It is encouraging that both the Commission and the Council now recognise the importance of this work. We hope that the Parliament will follow suit.
• Creation of a 'true' Europe brand to distinguish EU destinations from other international rivals and working with the European Travel Commission (ETC) to promote this on the visiteurope.com website. [ETC is an association of national tourism organisations.]
European Tourism Forum
Implementation of the new EU tourism policy was top of the agenda at the European Tourism Forum on 18th and 19th November in Malta. The forum is an annual event organised by the European Commission's Tourism Unit and is attended by representatives of the main tourism interest groups including, this year, IAAPA Europe.
A draft implementation plan was distributed to delegates at the start of the meeting. It is a set of measures identified as priorities by Commission officials for the next two or three years. The plan is to publish a final, shorter list of priorities early in 2011.
The current long-list retains the references to integrating tourism policy in wider EU policies and the wish to create a new "Brand Europe" (which was discussed at great length in Malta). Other ideas include:
• Development of an ICT (information and communication technologies) and tourism platform to help small businesses get the most out of new technologies.
• Tourism training initiatives.
• A 'virtual' tourism observatory - making research information available online.
• A European 'quality' label - perhaps an umbrella scheme bringing together existing national and regional quality assurance schemes. (This provoked long and difficult debate in Malta, with no conclusions reached. Even so, the Commission seems determined to go ahead.)
The format of the forum effectively prevented serious public debate on the issues in the Commission's list, with the exception of the Europe brand and the quality-label idea. Nor was there much discussion of perhaps the most crucial point: how the proposed measures will be paid for. Tourism may now be an EU competence, but it does not yet have a budget line of its own (other than one covering the cost of staffing the small Tourism Unit). And this is at a time when the member states and the European Parliament are unable to agree on an EU budget for 2011 or a formula for subsequent years.
However, one thing that the forum proved was the political support in many quarters for the EU to get involved seriously in tourism. Antonio Tajani, the Commission vice-president and commissioner with responsibility for tourism, was an enthusiastic presence at the event, as were a number of national government ministers and a leading member of the European Parliament's Transport and Tourism Committee, Carlo Fidanza MEP.
The EU institutions have probably never talked as much about tourism as they are at the moment and things are moving quickly. This is encouraging, as is the keenness of Mr Tajani to present himself as tourism's champion in the Commission.
These are, of course, early days and industry bodies are getting in early to talk to the commissioner and his advisers. IAAPA Europe is no exception, joining its colleagues in NET at a meeting with Mr Tajani on 28th September. NET expressed its support for the new tourism proposals as a first step towards a more business-friendly tourism policy;
Mr Tajani agreed immediately to NET's request for the EC to set up a permanent, regular forum bringing officials together with representatives of the tourism sector.
These are small but welcome developments. It is, however, far from clear whether the Commission (and specifically its Tourism Unit) will, in the longer term, be open to full co-operation with the tourism industry and prove an effective supporter of industry concerns. It remains as important as ever for IAAPA Europe and its industry colleagues to engage directly with all EU institutions in efforts to ensure that tourism's voice is heard and respected.
Update July 2010
The European Commission continues to work on a EU Tourism Policy, aiming at supporting the European tourism sector and promoting the sectors competitiveness, its sustainable and quality-based development and the visibility of Europe as an outstanding tourist destination.
One of the new initiatives is a possible Quality Tourism label, which should reward the best tourist businesses, activities and destinations – hereunder attractions. It is the Commission’s ambition that the new Qualité Tourisme brand would be like a Michelin Star award, but for all types of tourist sites. The label has yet to pin down a final name or logo, but ideas will be developed further in the coming months should the plan win approval from member states and the European Parliament.
The proposal is one of 21 actions proposed by the Commission on 30. June 2010. The full list of initiatives can be found here – and a summary can be found here. IAAPA Europe continues to monitor this policy area.
Update May 2010
On 14. And 15. April 2010 the Spanish EU Presidency invited the primary tourism stakeholders in Europe to a two day seminar, where an updated EU tourism policy framework was discussed. IAAPA Europe attended the meeting, introduced by Vice-President of the European Commission Antonio Tajani.
The backdrop for the conference was the fact that the new Lisbon Treaty includes tourism as new, prioritized EU policy area. As Commssioner Tajani expressed it; "Tourism is one of the economic activities with most significant potential to generate future growth and employment in the EU. Like all the economic sectors, tourism was affected by the recent economic downturn, but has proven to be, nevertheless, one of the most resilient sectors, recently even showing signs of muted recovery and growth."
The EU tourism industry generates more than 5% of the EU GDP, with about 1.8 million enterprises employing around 5.2% of the total labour force (approximately 9.7 million jobs). When related sectors are taken into account, the estimated contribution of tourism to GDP creation is much higher: tourism indirectly generates more than 10% of the European Union's GDP and provides about 12% of the labour force.
At the conference in Madrid, specific themes was discussed including innovation and competitiveness, sustainable and socially responsible tourism, as well as ways of reinforcing the image of Europe as a tourist destination. Following the conference the EU Tourism Ministers approved the the ‘Madrid Declaration’, making a series of recommendations to the European Commission to implement a European tourism policy, which includes;
- Streamlining Community efforts, ensuring adequate coordination of policy initiatives which may impact tourism
- Promotion of ‘soical tourism’ in combination with better and more prolonged use of tourism infrastructure.
- Raising awareness of the importance of innovation and information/communication technologies for maintaining the - competitiveness of tourism companies
- Mainstreaming sustainability in the sectors related to tourism (transport, waste, water treatment, etc.).
- Joint promotion of a single European destinations in far-off markets
- A revised visa policy that does not strangle demand from the new tourist-generating countries, especially India, China and Russia.
- Harmonising consumer legislations, as well as integrating sustainability in tourism-related sectors
The listed initiatives are all part of the building blocks for a new European tourism policy for the first time in the history of the EU. As Tajani highlighted in the opening of the Madrid conference; “Today is the first day in the development of a European tourism project”, and the outcome of the conference will smooth the path for a coordinated approach on tourism policy initiatives.
You can download the Madrid Declaration here.
Update March 2010
The new college of European commissioners took office on 10th February. Like the Parliament, it will stay in office until 2014. This is the first European Commission (EC) to be appointed since the implementation of the EU's Lisbon Treaty in December last year.
The college is a mix of previous commissioners and new ones. There is one from each of the EU's 27 member states. All were nominated by their individual national governments and subsequently endorsed by the Parliament after a series of hearings early this year.
A full list of the commissioners and their policy responsibilities can be found here.
The new commissioner with responsibility for tourism policy is Antonio Tajani from Italy. He is one of the Commission's vice-presidents and is understood to be an enthusiastic supporter of tourism.
Mr Tajani will be attending meetings being held in Madrid on 14th and 15th April to discuss the future direction of EU tourism policy. The first of these is a consultation meeting with representatives of the tourism industry, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and national ministers; the second is an informal meeting for ministers only.
Both meetings follow the publication in early February of a short discussion paper by the Tourism Unit. This highlighted three main priorities for future EC tourism work and invited comments from all interested parties on how they could be pursued. These priorities are:
- to stimulate the competitiveness of the tourism industry
- to strengthen the development of sustainable tourism in Europe
- to promote Europe in third countries (ie outside Europe).
IAAPA Europe responded to this consultation, emphasising the importance of providing a strong European framework for the industry's competitiveness. This response was approved by our Government Relations committee and sent to the Commission on 1st March. A copy is available here.
We plan to attend the Madrid consultation meeting with a number of our colleagues from the other European industry associations. We will also keep a close eye on developments with the new European tourism policy framework that has been promised by the EC for later this year.
The European Union's Lisbon Treaty entered into force on 1st December 2009. This is the first treaty specifically to mention tourism among the policy responsibilities of the EU institutions, and to give the European Parliament a voice alongside that of the member states in tourism policy decisions.
What does the treaty say?
The treaty may be in force, but the final version of the text has not yet been published. This is promised for early 2010 once all the legal tweaks and numbering quirks have been sorted out. Until this time, there can be no certainty about the numbering of the articles and paragraphs, but according to the version published in the Official Journal on 9th May 2008, the references to tourism are as follows:
Article 6 (d) gives the EU the power to carry out actions "to support, co-ordinate or supplement the actions of the member states" in tourism.
Article 195 then says a little more:
1. The Union shall complement the action of the member states in the tourism sector, in particular by promoting the competitiveness of Union undertakings in that sector.
To that end, Union action shall be aimed at:
(a) encouraging the creation of a favourable environment for the development of undertakings in this sector;
(b) promoting cooperation between the member states, particularly by the exchange of good practice.
2. The European Parliament and the Council, acting in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure, shall establish specific measures to complement actions within the member states to achieve the objectives referred to in this article, excluding any harmonisation of the laws and regulations of the member states.
What does this mean?
No EU policies that do not complement what the member states are doing already. There are no powers to propose tourism-specific legislation at EU level. Furthermore, the Council and Parliament share responsibility for tourism policy with the co-decision procedure being used for the scrutiny of new tourism policy proposals. In other words, both institutions have to agree on a proposal before it can be implemented. The Council will no longer be able to ignore what the Parliament says.
In fact, the article is so vague as to be open to whatever interpretations the institutions decide to apply to it. This is a concern to many industry bodies. These will be watching developments very closely for signs of the sector's new 'official' status being used as a pretext for political interference and, especially, new legislation which will hamper its ability to provide the services its customers want.
How will tourism fit into the organisation of the European Commission?
The president of the European Commission, José-Manuel Barroso, has just announced his new team of commissioners and the portfolios which he intends to allocate to them for the next 5-year term of office.
Tourism policy will be the responsibility of a new directorate-general (DG) for industry and enterpreneurship that will take over from the existing DG Enterprise and Industry. The new commission will be Antonio Tajani, an Italian who is currently commissioner for transport. He has also been nominated to serve as Commission vice-president during his second term of office.
The team of officials responsible for developing and implementing tourism policy initiatives, the Tourism Unit, will remain in the new DG. The present head of unit, Franco Ianniello, will be retiring in 2010. It remains to be seen what plans his eventual successor will have for the unit's future activities.
Word of caution: the new college of commissioners will not take office until at least February 2010. Having been nominated by their national governments, they all now face cross-examination by the European Parliament in January. On 26th January, MEPs will then vote on whether or not to approve the new Commission. This is not a formality. MEPs have the power to reject the nominees - all of them (but not individuals) - if they wish. While such a radical move is unlikely, it is quite possible that pressure from MEPs could lead to individual nominees being withdrawn and replaced to ensure that all other appointments are approved.
Once the Parliament has approved the Commission nominations, the member states will be called on to give their formal endorsement. This is expected to be in February.
The existing college of commissioners will stay in office until the new one is approved. This means that the Commission vice-president, Günter Verheugen, will retain responsibility for tourism policy for the time being. (He will leave the Commission when the new college takes office.)
Tourism policy priorities
Current projects give an idea of the direction in which the Tourism Unit would like to move in future. For example:
European Destinations of Excellence awards. The 2010 theme will be 'aquatic tourism'. Let's hope the Tourism Unit doesn't drown in paperwork.
Calypso project. An initiative to develop social tourism and thus to reduce seasonality.
Iron Curtain trail. An initiative to promote 'cycling tourism'.
There are plans for a new multiannual tourism programme. This will be funded by the new tourism policy budget line being created under the Lisbon Treaty.
Work continues on a range of other projects such as the creation of tourism business networks, the commissioning of consultancy studies and - arguably the most important from an industry perspective - monitoring EU programmes and legislative initiatives that will affect tourism businesses.
One thing that the Lisbon Treaty won't change is the fact that most EU initiatives affecting tourism businesses - whether attractions, accommodation or transport - have nothing to do with the Tourism Unit's work. IAAPA and its industry colleagues in Brussels will need to remain alert to initiatives being taken elsewhere in the Commission. A case in point is the proposal, announced on 26th November, to review the Package Travel Directive once again.