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[Luxembourg 2005 Presidency of the Council of the European Union]
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You are here : Home > News > Speeches > February 2005 > Presentation of Community tourism and the programme of the Luxembourg Presidency by Fernand Boden, Minister for Small and Medium-sized Businesses, Tourism and Housing, before the European Parliament’s Committee on Transport and Tourism
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Presentation of Community tourism and the programme of the Luxembourg Presidency by Fernand Boden, Minister for Small and Medium-sized Businesses, Tourism and Housing, before the European Parliament’s Committee on Transport and Tourism

Date of Speech : 01-02-2005

Place : Bruxelles

Speaker : Fernand Boden

Policy area : Transport, Telecommmunications and Energy Transport, Telecommmunications and Energy

Mr President,

Members of Parliament,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, let me say what a pleasure it is to speak to you today in my capacity as Minister for Tourism for the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, which for the first half of this year is holding the Presidency of the European Union, and I hope that I may set out to you briefly Community policy in matters of tourism and the objectives of the Luxembourg Presidency, and that I may listen to your suggestions and attempt to reply to your questions.

Before getting to the heart of the matter, I would however like to talk about the catastrophic event which occurred in south-east Asia and which marked the start of the Luxembourg Presidency. This, quite apart from the innumerable personal human tragedies involved, has delivered a renewed blow to a tourist industry which could have done without such a disaster, and which has only just recovered from previous afflictions. Indeed, while 2004 will go down in the annals of global tourism as a vintage year – the World Tourism Organization reckons with an increase of 10%, meaning a increase of 70 million international arrivals – it is worth remembering that 2004 followed three gloomy years, with cumulative growth below 1%, and that this recovery is essentially a reaction to the downturn caused by the combined effects of the Iraq War, the SARS virus and the slowdown in international economic activity.

Although tourism experts are more or less unanimous in their view that the impact of the most recent disaster will be limited only in terms of global tourism, the supportive reaction of the international community, both unanimous and spontaneous, must be welcomed. Tourism is an essential economic and social pillar in the affected regions, where it often constitutes the most significant source of income and employment. This is why it is both essential and a matter of urgency that the tourism sector should recover over the long term.

Tomorrow, the World Tourism Organisation will also be holding a session of its Executive Council in Phuket, Thailand, in order to lend its support and assess the situation with a view to adopting an action plan in favour of the affected destinations. In a recent letter which I wrote to the Chairman of the General Affairs and External Relations Council, I asked the Chairman to invite the Commission to contact the WTO urgently in order to evaluate needs and identify the best means available in order to assist rebuilding of the tourist industry in general, and more specifically, the numerous small and medium-sized enterprises which depend on tourism. I also stressed that it was necessary to ensure that the action plan which is intended to cover all initiatives to be taken by the EU and the Member States following the earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean, which will be adopted by the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 31 January 2005, should take due account of the specific needs of the tourism sector.

In a more general manner, it is possible to state that the during the past few years, the tourism sector, on quite a few occasions demonstrated its extraordinary flexibility and capacity to get through bad times.

Mr President,

Ladies and Gentlemen

Due to its economic weight, the development of tourism in Europe is able to make a significant contribution to consolidating the European Union, guaranteeing a link between the regions and the countries, with their own specific cultural features, their traditions and their heritage.

With some 400 million foreign visitors arriving annually, i.e. more than half of all international tourism, Europe today emerges as the number one tourist destination of choice worldwide. It is also the top region from which tourists travel to all over the rest of the world.

With EUR 300 billion in revenue, the economic weight of tourism in the European Union is evaluated at approximately 5% of Community GDP, 5% of employment and 30% of external trade services.

It is reasonable to expect that the economic importance of tourism in Europe will grow still further over the coming years.

The forecasts of the World Tourism Organisation predict that, by 2020, there will be more than 700 million tourists visiting Europe, with a growth in business of 2.5% to 4% as an annual average.

In terms of employment, it is predicted that, during the same period, tourism will be able to create between 2.2 and 3.3 million additional jobs on top of the 9 million already recorded in this sector of activity within the European Union of 15 countries, a sector which represents some 2 million companies, 99% of which are small and medium-sized enterprises.

During the next few years, tourism is likely to become the principal economic activity at global level, exceeding in terms of exports the sectors linked to oil production and automobile production.

Surely this spectacular growth, accompanied by profound changes in our society, will inevitably give rise to new preoccupations for Europe.

I reckon that the development of tourism in Europe has the capacity to make a significant contribution towards achieving the Lisbon strategy. For it offers new opportunities to satisfy important objectives of the European Union such as economic growth, employment, the well-being of populations and sustainable development.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Since 1997, the year of the last Luxembourg Presidency, when I had the honour of chairing the "Tourism" Council, the ideas raised at the time have highlighted the requirement of better coordination and greater consultation between Member States in order to facilitate elaboration of a future tourism development model at European Union level.

Under the impetus of the Luxembourg Presidency, which had organised a conference on the topic of tourism and employment, the extraordinary Employment Summit in Luxembourg stressed that balanced and sustainable development of tourism in Europe could make a contribution towards combating unemployment in the Member States.

Starting from this point, events gathered pace.

A High-Level Group on Tourism and Employment was set up following the conclusions of the Council of Tourism Ministers which met on 26 November 1997. The recommendations and conclusions of this High-Level Group were published in October 1998.

The "Internal Market" Council of 21 June 1999 was then able to invite the Commission and the Member States to cooperate closely in order to "maximise the contribution which tourism can make to growth and employment, in view particularly of the contribution by small and medium-sized enterprises" which make up most of this economic sector.

Specifically, five working groups were set up by the Commission dealing with a number of priority themes, such as the group working on the improvement of training for professionals in the tourist industry, improving the quality of tourism products, promoting the protection of the environment and sustainable development, the dissemination of information using new technologies, and the impact of these on the tourist industry.

The conclusions presented by the five working groups served as a basis for a Commission Communication dated November 2001 entitled "Working Together for the Future of European Tourism". Amongst other things, it proposes that "promoting the sustainable development of tourist activities in Europe should be continued …. by defining and implementing an Agenda 21".

In its resolution of 21 May 2002 on the future of European tourism, the Council stressed the necessity of using all existing resources and structures in the whole of the Community, applying the method of open coordination, in order to encourage tourism in the EU. In this context, it would be appropriate to take account of the principle of subsidiarity, while favouring the active participation of companies and economic and social players.

In order to follow up this Council resolution, the successive presidencies organised a number of conferences in order to monitor the development of European tourism, for example the ministerial meeting on European tourism which was held in Heraklion, Crete, in May 2003, and the Second Forum on European Tourism which was held in Abano Terme in November 2003. More recently, the Conference Competitiveness and Sustainability in a European Context, otherwise known as "Charting Tourism Success" held in Dublin in April 2004 brought together directors-general of the Member States and acceding countries as well as representatives of the tourist industry. During the Dutch Presidency, Hungary, in cooperation with the European Commission and with the participation of the European tourist industry, organized the European Tourism Forum 2004 in Budapest.

In the same connection, in 2002 the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the Commission Communication "Working Together for the Future of European Tourism", proposing that the Commission and the Member States coordinate their policies on tourism and define strategic priorities accompanied by an action programme.

Ladies and Gentlemen

We can therefore see that, for a few years now, a new approach to tourism in the European Union has been evolving, one that is more flexible, decentralised, and giving rise to new forms of partnerships between the various political levels and the socio-economic players.

The most recent Communication, published in November 2003 and called "Basic orientations for the sustainability of European tourism", constitutes another important step forward. Since their publication, these orientations have provided the Commission with the raw material for launching a vast Agenda 21 process for sustainable tourism in Europe. Among its current initiatives, there is work in progress enabling the improvement of economic analyses based on reliable statistics, namely satellite tourism accounts, the European Portal on Tourist Destinations, the Manual for "Learning Areas" as well as a number of other studies, such as those relating to "The methods and instruments for measuring the quality of tourist destinations and services" and "Accessibility for disabled tourists". These orientations therefore have very specific importance; in fact, this Communication will need to form the basis and framework of any action to be taken by the Commission in matters of tourism in the years to come. The principal instrument for implementing this Agenda 21 policy will henceforth be the Group for Sustainable Tourism, which would bring together a limited number of representatives of Member States, the tourist industry, civil society, and tourist destinations, as well as associate members representing the other European and international institutions and organisations.

This group will have the task of preparing a detailed framework of action which will need to allocate specific activities to the various players and include an implementation calendar decided by mutual agreement. The Commission will be willing to promote and support implementation of the activities defined by the group.

The sustainability of tourism covers particularly important aspects, such as competitive and socially responsible tourist companies, the possibility for all citizens of participating in tourism, quality job opportunities in the sector, and the benefits generated through tourist activities for local communities. It requires the preservation of cultural integrity, the integration of environmental issues, and the protection of heritage in the measures linked to tourism.

Far from being reductive either in its definition or sphere of application, sustainable tourism is therefore a sector of services with a complex chain of players. The players in each link of the chain (travel agencies, tour operators, transport companies, hoteliers, restaurant owners and others) each offer one element of the total product. If a single link in the chain has difficulties or its image is damaged, the whole of the industry suffers the consequences.

This diversity is expressed by the fact that numerous policies, both national and Community, have a direct impact on the tourist industry. For example, transport policy, an essential component of tourism products, regional policy on the development of infrastructures and the development of natural and cultural resources, and environmental policies, in particular concerning destinations affected by mass tourism. Reference can also be made to the new technologies, energy, food hygiene, taxes and education, for tourism is a labour-intensive activity.

The orientations devised for the policies I have just mentioned, as well as definition of the specific measures for implementing these policies, often fail to take into account their impact on the tourist industry, or do not take such impact adequately into consideration.

The importance of the sector and its growth potential must therefore be better recognised by the Commission and the Member States by adopting an integrated approach to all orientations and measures likely to affect tourism.

While acknowledging the merits of your TRAN Commission for the development of tourism, I also welcome the establishment, at European-Parliament level, of a "Tourism" Intergroup which, due to its broad composition, enables ample account to be taken of the transversal nature of the tourist industry.

In the same vein, I congratulate the TRAN Commission for having taken the initiative of commissioning a study on tourism and more specifically analysing the tourism services of several new Member States in the light of sustainable development and quality considerations. The first results of this study should actually be presented to us today.

Ladies and Gentlemen

During its term of office, the Luxembourg Presidency will do everything within its power in order to progress the Community dossier, in particular through better recognition of the Communication "Basic orientations for the sustainability of European tourism" which, as the title suggests, will serve as a backcloth and reference source for further action to be taken at Community level.

Sustainable development is a guiding principle which applies to all policies of the EU, whether relating to the economy, the social domain, the environment, fishing, agriculture, public finances, and so on. The Luxembourg Presidency considers that, in terms of revising the strategy for sustainable development, it is essential for all Council training courses to take account of the sustainable nature of their actions.

In this connection, I intend to submit draft conclusions to the "Competitiveness" Council for its April session with the objective of promoting implementation of a cooperative approach between the players in the tourist industry through the creation of groups including the Group for Sustainable Tourism, to better integrate the aspects of sustainability into EU policies and initiatives which have an impact on European tourism and, finally, to put the Commission in a position to submit to the Council an Agenda 21 proposal for European tourism before the end of 2007.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Since the Treaty of Rome, tourism has not been regarded as one of the domains requiring a Community-wide policy. In the tourist industry, the Member States, or rather some of the Member States, remain attached to national policies highlighting natural and cultural treasures, national and cultural identity and touristic assets. This compromise solution of the lowest common denominator has somehow always left me hungry for more.

Since 1991, when Luxembourg also held the Presidency, I have always spoken in favour of a coherent policy at EU level in the tourist industry and I have never hidden my preference for the introduction of a specific chapter relating to tourism in the Treaties.

Article 3 of the Treaty of Maastricht dated 7 February 1992 for the first time states that the action of the Community may comprise measures in the field of tourism. A declaration attached to the Treaty even advocated the possibility of enlarging Community powers through the introduction in the Treaty of a specific chapter relating to the field of tourism when the Treaty was next revised.

These measures have undoubtedly contributed towards facilitating the mobility of citizens and their access to tourism, towards improving the economic and social framework for the development of tourist activities, and to establishing a link between tourist activities and natural resources with a view to the balanced development of tourism.

Despite the absence of a specific legal basis for common action in the field of tourism, and indeed we all know that without such a legal basis, programmes and actions will be more and more difficult to adopt in an enlarged EU, I note with satisfaction that more active relations have become established between the Member States in recent years, and that the idea of taking greater account of this sector of activity is gaining ground. These positive signs give the impression that the best path to follow is that of encouragement and cooperation between Member States and professionals in the industry through action to be taken over the medium term and on bases to be defined together.

This multilateral cooperative and proactive approach, which moreover also contributes towards mitigating the estrangement between the Community and players on the ground, may currently be considered as the right path towards the sustainability of European tourism.

Even though I still regret the absence of a specific chapter for tourism in the Treaty, I am however delighted that the future European Constitution includes tourism among the domains where the EU has the power to take supporting, coordinating and complementary action. Article III –281 permits the EU to complement the action of Member States in the tourist industry, in particular by promoting competition between companies of the EU in the industry, excluding any harmonization of the legislative and regulatory provisions of the Member States.

These measures enable the EU to support and complement national policies when it is in the interests of the Union and the Member States.

They may take the form of financial support, administrative cooperation, an exchange of good practices between Member States, pilot projects, orientations and indeed other forms, including the open method of coordination.

In any event, it is essential to guarantee the maintenance of diversity between the approaches taken in order to enrich the policies and intervention devised and to give ourselves the means of creating a veritable "European model" for tourism, while at the same time avoiding the path of a "trivialized" Community tourism policy, which would mean a uniform and sanitized European tourism.

Mr President, Members of Parliament,

Before concluding, I would like to draw your attention to a seminar organised by the Luxembourg Presidency jointly with the European Institute for Cultural Itineraries of the Council of Europe.

The seminar, which will be held on 21 and 22 April 2005, is entitled "Tourism and Culture – the challenge of European integration". In order to contribute tools of management and governance to the tourist industries, the seminar will discuss good practice in development matters, selecting examples from among the EU Member States and those countries that will be joining over the next few years.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for your kind attention and your patience. I would, of course, be delighted to receive any questions you may have, and I will do my best to answer them.

This page was last modified on : 04-02-2005

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