Happy 2012! A challenging year for Tourism in the European Agenda

The year 2012 is called to be a key year for the aspirations of the European tourism industry to be recognized as one of the largest and healthiest socioeconomic activities in the EU. The big picture shows a well settled industry made up of 1.8 million businesses, most of them small and medium-sized enterprises, that provide jobs for almost 10 million Europeans (5% of the total European workforce), accounting for 10% indirect EU GDP. Very few sectors in Europe could show such credentials!

But what is more important, during the last two years tourism has also been one of the few European sectors that has managed to resist the crisis: in 2010 the number of international arrivals in EU27 grew +3.1%, and in 2011 according to UNWTO figures there has been a growth of +6.4%, becoming the World’s fastest growing region. Next year will be, without question, an incredible opportunity to take advantage of its dynamism to boost the exhausted European economy.

No other industries in Europe is capable of managing 476 million international clients on yearly bases, and succeed as tourism does, in no other global market are we able to control more than 50% of the World market share like the European industry does in tourism. It is not by chance that Europe is the World’s Nº 1 tourism destination. Now more than ever tourism should be regarded as part and parcel of the EU’s industrial policy and innovation policy!

It is true that the recognition of the importance of this sector in Europe has come quite late, as I referred to in a previous post, it has not been until the Lisbon Treaty that the importance and potential of the tourism sector has been acknowledged, but now for the first time in the existence of the Union tourism has its own legal basis, its own political framework, and finally in the new Multi Annual Financial Framework 2014-2020, under the “Programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprise and small and medium-sized enterprises” (COSME), tourism will have its own legitimate budget reservation, an estimated amount of 131 million € to be allocated to different initiatives throughout seven years.

Until then, for 2012 and 2013 the Commission has already started to launch some ambitious initiatives under the current budgetary framework, I would like to refer hear to two of them that are bound to enhance the competitive of the sector by harnessing the potential of innovation and knowledge:

1. The 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. 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”. This initiative capitalises, upon relevant work already developed in Spain in order to adapt and expand it at the European level ThinkTurand Travel Open Apps platform.It will be developed by a consortium formed by ECTAA (the European association of travel agents and tour operators); HOTREC (the European umbrella association of hotels, restaurants and cafés); ITH, (Spanish Hotel Technological Institute); Università Bocconi (Milano); and ZN, a Brussels-based communications agency.

2. The creation of a “virtual tourism observatory“to support and coordinate research activities carried out by different national or regional Research Tourims Institutes in Europe. The final aim is to have a solid, reliable and up-to-date knowledge base with socio-economic data in order to help stakeholders and public authorities in their decision making when required.

Those two initiatives are good examples of the new approach the Commission is taken in relation with tourism and its relevance, and I am sure that many others will come, let’s take advantage of them better sooner than later.

Carlos Romero Dexeus, Director of Tourism

(Source: http://bit.ly/tbwTrw)