A sustainable blue economy can boost Europe's tourism
EU coastal regions attract a huge number of tourists each year but they need more support to unlock the full potential of the blue economy, says István Ujhelyi.
István Ujhelyi | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual
The importance of coastal and maritime tourism is crucial these days. Five years ago, the Commission issued a so-called 'blue strategy', entitled, 'The blue economy can be a driver for welfare and prosperity'.
This statement turned out to be entirely correct: after the long economic and social crises, European economies can once again create jobs and economic growth.
The situation is fragile, but there have been many achievements over the past few years. The EU's coastal areas are among the most visited destinations across the continent. They employ 3.2 million people while in 2013, the tourism sector generated €183bn in gross production.
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Parliament's tourism task force examined how to diversify fishery policies through tourism and has prepared an opinion covering this topic. We need coherent and common strategies - such as the European tourism for blue growth and smart government strategies - that EU institutions can subsequently fulfil, together with the various stakeholders, business, member states and civil society.
We welcome EU maritime ministers' signed declaration, which gives an additional boost to the sustainable development of key sectors including tourism, aquaculture, ocean energy and biotechnology.
Industry suffers from a lack of professionals with the right skills and competences, as the maritime sector is increasingly exploring green solutions. Therefore, we must support industry, education and public players to identify the problems and the possible solutions.
The sector also needs more - and structured - investment. EFSI funds should serve to get support for regional cooperation.
Europe needs concrete actions and initiatives wherever the blue economy can be channelled. The creation of the European Capital of Tourism award can be a driving force for boosting local and regional tourism - similarly to the European Capital of Culture programme. Currently €2.5m have been earmarked by Parliament and the Commission for the next three years for this initiative under a preparatory action.
The title would be awarded by an independent jury each year to those cities and landscapes that present the best solutions in the tourism industry. If the idea was strongly promoted, it could become one of the tourism industry's most distinguished awards, with wide recognition and positive economic and social impact bringing about sustainable regional development. I really hope that European coastal regions will be among the awarded destinations.
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