EU policy: Putting the focus on tourism

2019 is a key year for Europe. When the EU parliamentary elections in May are over, the new Commission will face the challenge of uniting Europe against tendencies to disintegrate the Union. The tourism industry can help.

Support from the legislators

The travel industry makes a very special contribution to employment and prosperity, particularly in the southern EU Member States which were hit hard by the financial and economic crises. In Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece the travel industry accounts for between 15 and 25 percent of all jobs – which is far higher than the EU average. The same applies to its contribution to gross domestic product. In other words, tourism offers solutions to urgent economic and labour market problems.

It also provides answers that go far beyond border security to the widely discussed issue of migration. People outside of the EU, particularly in Africa, are able to make a living in their homeland – with training and career opportunities – thanks to European holidaymakers. Development aid and tourism contribute to reducing migratory pressure in many regions.

Tourism offers a future to many people around the world. Tourists spend 3.3 times the amount of global development aid.

Increase significance

For the above-mentioned reasons tourism should play a larger role – also politically – in the EU. This means that the future EU parliament and the new Commission have to set the right priorities:

  • Raise status. The Commission doesn’t currently accord tourism the status that it deserves for its economic and social significance. A formal acknowledgement of this key future topic and better networking with and within the relevant Directorates General is necessary. 
  • Better coordination. At the moment, tourism policy still tends to be a national affair. Greater collaboration between the Member States on this key policy area would multiply the positive effects on Europe’s attractiveness as a destination and enable the more effective coordination of tourism policy with foreign, development and cultural policy. 
  • Integrate tourism into EU structural policy. A major portion of the EU budget is earmarked for investments in growth and employment. Tourism is paying in to this objective, especially in the rural regions of the EU, and should therefore be taken into account in the fund allocation process. 
  • Promote innovations. Digitalisation is changing the economy. The EU is providing support during this process, and in the Industry 4.0 transformation, with various packages of measures. Similarly, there should be a European initiative for the digitalisation of the tourism industry to support small and medium-sized enterprises and enhance Europe’s attractiveness as a destination.