Dods EU Briefing: EP TRAN and Italian Minister for Tourism

On September 3rd, the TRAN Committee discussed the Italian Presidency priorities in the tourism sector

By Dods EU monitoring

04 Sep 2014

Please note that this does not constitute a formal record of the proceedings of the meeting. It is dependent on interpretation and acts as an unofficial summary of the debate.

On September 3rd, the TRAN Committee welcomed the Italian Minister for Tourism, Mr Franceschini, to discuss the Italian Presidency priorities in the tourism sector, including its contribution to economic growth and jobs, as well as a single European brand for international tourists and high quality standards. Another key issue raised was the infrastructure to support the development of tourism, including intermodal transport. Please find a summary of the discussion below.     

Mr Franceschini, Italian Minister for Tourism noted that the central topic for tourism is a proper understanding, at all levels of decision making in Europe and Member States, that tourism is a major opportunity for growth and Europe’s economic development. He noted that Europe is one of the world’s biggest tourist destinations, so tourism should become central, not least when redefining the Europe 2020 strategy objectives. He elaborated on this point, explaining that there is international tourism into Europe as well as domestic tourism, and the bulk of international tourists (notably from China and Russia) organise trips into one capital to another. This means that international tourists choose Europe as a whole and so he advocated work on Europe’s ability to enter the global market as a single player. Regarding internal/domestic tourism, he explained that this is more than an individual trip or economic contribution, because tourism is part of European citizenship and a nascent European identity. With Europe’s natural and cultural resources, he said they need to understand and invest in the link between culture and attracting tourists. This also entails an aim for quality tourism on the supply side.

Central actions to be undertaking for growth in European tourism include supporting the growth of mobility plans and intermodal transport, especially making it easier to arrive in less important regions. He noted the surplus in big capitals when there are small arts cities which are not on the tourist trail. They also need a mechanism to ensure a variety of holidays including for young and older people, as well as tourist itineraries on a thematic basis, such as the renaissance Franciscan trail and cycle trails.

A second important challenge is due to tourism being an internet-based industry and he mentioned public intervention to support digitalisation. They also need to invest in regenerating a culture of hospitality and highly trained human resources because high calibre services are in demand with tourists. Here he advocated the exchange of good practice. He added that communications campaigns are needed for Europe as a brand and mentioned the European Tourism Forum in Naples on 30-31 October, as well as an informal meeting with tourism and cultural ministers to emphasise the tourism-culture link.

He noted that the Package Travel Directive (PTD) was adopted by plenary in March and said that the Italian Presidency aims to progress the negotiations in Council for a quick 2nd reading agreement with Parliament. He noted that this legislation intends to increase consumer protection and accompany the change in the market where people are booking their holidays online. The Italian Presidency also intends to propose to Council the adoption of draft conclusions on Tourism, to strengthen the position of the industry and the idea of using natural and cultural heritage as a lever can make a contribution to economic growth and employment.

Group Coordinators: 

Luis de Grandes Pascual (EPP, ES) noted a real opportunity and mentioned the coordination of tourism and transport so that tourism promotes development. He referred to article 195 of the Treaty regarding free movement and said that tourism is a way of transmitting values and cultural practices. He agreed with focusing on promoting the Europe brand across the world, as well as the need for quality and he highlighted that this is about enriching values. He also mentioned the need to invest and that it is not just international but also domestic and they need to try to combat seasonal trends and create jobs. He specifically asked the Italian Presidency if they are thinking about actions in developing countries to promote tourism, as a way to promote development in those countries.

Ismail Ertug (S&D, DE) highlighted that one important point was mentioned about European branding, but what was forgotten in the presentation was the need to simplify and promote flows of tourism through the continent. Tourism is also influenced by external factors, such as visa policy making it difficult. One point to stress, in regions which are difficult to access, they need to promote special offers. He also asked about how to promote sustainable tourism and what the Presidency’s plans are to promote intermodal tourism.

Jacqueline Foster (ECR, UK) said that tourism is not seen in isolation, but is part of a supply chain and is a multi-billion euro venture. Tourism is important for job creation and they are looking at ensuring that expectations of high standards are met. She noted that TRAN looks at the whole supply chain of tourism benefits. The Minister was right to raise PTD, as well as the issues of visas and accessibility from third countries. She noted that with the European brand, tourists are attracted to Europe’s geographical diversity and different cultures within a relatively small area. She agreed that it is important to facilitate welcoming international tourists with standards and recognise the benefits for all EU economies.

Gesine Meissner (ALDE, DE) agreed that tourism is not as simple as all that, and from 2009, their first challenge was how to better promote tourism at the European level. She noted that some Member States are in competition with each other, but to keep Europe as a world number 1 destination, they need to make what they have to offer more visible. She noted that they have sustainable tourism already, such as cycle tours and green hotels. Also, Parliament has had a discussion already about tourism and overcoming seasonal trends and she asked how to bring European branding altogether more coherently.

Merja Kyllönen (GUE/NGL, FI) noted that tourism as a growth sector and creator of new jobs is important for all. She expressed the wish to see to the interests of all of Europe so that the tourism idea is more visible on the European agenda.

Karima Delli (Greens/EFA, FR) felt that one point was missing from the presentation: the minister did not mention tourism being incorporated in the climate challenge. She said that Europe needs to develop green/ecological tourism, as well as a sustainable response to the increase of mass tourism. It is q question of how to protect natural resources in the face of tourism. She agreed that quality tourism must be a focal point, but they cannot do this without taking account of the environmental and social spheres, and here she mentioned precarious working conditions in the tourist industry. Finally, she asked what the Italian Presidency will do to make sure that the coastal protection and sea protection directives are better implemented.

Peter Lundgren (EFDD, SE) agreed that Europe’s cultural and historic value could be a driving force to support the economy, however the recent trend should merit further consideration, such as the decrease in the duration of travel. He also stated that the tourist offices of each state are significantly different. As for the Presidency priorities of investing in advanced special training courses and a network of best practice, he noted that there already are many programmes such as Calypso, cycling and cultural routes and these are far from emphasising the peculiarity of countries. He also noted that the Presidency believes Member States should have a wider own initiative and play a role in these. The Presidency would like to simplify visa procedures and he asked how they plan to do this, while guaranteeing Europeans’ safety. 

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