International Tourism Day: High-Level Conference in the European Parliament

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article issued by Stefania Petrosillo, EUROPARC Federation Policy Officer

The European Parliament hosted a high-level conference in Brussels on 27th of September 2017, as a celebration of the International Tourism Day, themed

A European strategy to enhance the competitiveness of the tourism industry’.

The presence of key representatives from all European and International Institutions made this event particularly interesting:

  • Mr Tajani, President of the European Parliament;
  • Jyrki KATAINEN, Vice-President of the European Commission, in charge of Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness;
  • Elżbieta BIEŃKOWSKA, EU Commissioner in charge of Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs;
  • Irina BOKOVA, UNESCO Director-General;
  • Karmenu VELLA, EU Commissioner in charge of Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries;
  • Tibor NAVRACSICS, EU Commissioner in charge of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport;
  • several Members of the European Parliament.

Tourism in Europe

Opening the ceremony, Mr Tajani declared that Europe is the first tourism destination in the world and affirmed: “Tourism is a key sector for all our Member States, accounting for 10% of GDP and jobs in the European Union.  It is an industry in its own right, an essential part of the mosaic which makes up Europe’s industrial fabric.”

Between now and 2025, the number of tourists coming to Europe may double as well – to more than one billion – creating more than 5 million new jobs. If we want to make this possibility a reality, we need to focus our efforts in a number of areas: attracting more investment, by means of a strategic plan which enables us to make greater and more effective use of EU funding; improving the business environment; promoting training commensurate with the needs of the industry; governing the digital revolution; exploiting synergies with a view to promoting Europe as a destination on international markets”, explained Mr Tajani

Sustainability = Competitiveness

Facing the growth of the tourism sector in Europe, The Commissioner Vella (who was Minister for Tourism in Malta in 2 mandates) stressed that

it is crucial to plan efficacy and take the right decisions. Europe is the first tourism destination in the world, but this is not enough: it has to be the first sustainable tourism destination.

The environment is the key to the success to be competitive as more than ever tourists demand sustainability and expect sustainable eco-experiences. Unsustainable tourism is not-competitive tourism. However, in order to reach it, we have to be proactive and not reactive when we speak about the environment. To protect natural resources must be an integral part of the tourism sector. Europe as many good examples and tools that can become general standard practices (ETIS, ECOLABEL, EMAS, SMIs sustainable projects financed by COSME, EDEN, etc.). Mr Vella also mentioned Natura 2000 and its potentiality for sustainable economic activities, as tourism, and the role of marine protected areas to promote coastal sustainable tourism.

Tourism: Natural & Cultural Heritage

Mr Navracsics, EU Commissioner in charge of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, recalled that 2018 will be the European Year of Cultural Heritage, a theme clearly related to tourism. The connection among tourism, culture and nature has been also evocated by Mrs Irina Bokova, General Director of UNESCO, who mentioned the Geoparks and World Heritage Sites networks.

2018 will be also the European Union and China Tourism Year and several initiatives have been mentioned to promote EU as a destination for the Chinese market.

Finally, taking into consideration the importance of the sector for Europe, the general request emerging from the conference has been that the EU, although in respecting the subsidiarity principle, will play a stronger role and develop a specific policy of tourism.

Two other connected events animated this long day of celebration: the meeting “EU financing for innovation in tourism”, organised by the European Committee of the Regions and NECSTOUR, aimed at reinforcing the regional innovation capacity and strengthening cooperation between EU regions to facilitate EU-wide and interregional public-private investments to support innovation projects in tourism; and the final high-level reception, hosted by Mr Tajani and MEP Tapardel of the Intergroup for Tourism Development, where EP and EC expressed again the will to collaborate for developing tourism in Europe.


The opening ceremony speeches are available here:


Overview of topics

Sustainable tourism: The environmental dimension (available in several languages):

Major challenges for EU tourism and policy responses

European Parliament resolution of 29 October 2015 on new challenges and concepts for the promotion of tourism in Europe (available in all EU languages):

See also the recently launched Guide to EU funding for tourism 2017