The European tourism sector offers enormous opportunities for socio-economic development, while also contributing to social wellbeing and stimulating cultural exchange. In order for tourism to realise its full potential as a “force for good”, the EU needs to ensure that implications on tourism are taken into account when developing any interacting policies. In this respect, TUI asks EU policy-makers to focus in particular on the following:
1. Foster sustainable growth
Tourism already plays an important positive role as it drives socio-economic growth, while at the same time providing an inherent incentive for the protection of the natural environment and cultural heritage. Nevertheless, more can and should be done. An EU-wide integrated tourism strategy should be developed, tackling the important topics of climate change, innovation and sustainable tourism, among others. This should include positive incentives for all stakeholders to take up sustainable practices, as well as support for projects that integrate tourism with other local activities such as agriculture and education.
2. Support digitalisation
As digitalisation and innovation are key elements for future growth, the EU should advance the digital transformation of the tourism sector and support it with appropriate measures. The EU should also ensure there is a proper framework in place to boost its capacities in new technologies. With more and more travellers booking their trip online, there is, however, a strong need to ensure that all market players – traditional tour operators, booking platforms, OTAs, airlines – respect the same rules. Travellers who buy similar combinations of travel services, irrespective of the selling model, ought to be entitled to the same levels of protection.
3. Enhance transport connectivity
Tourism can only thrive where efficient transport links are available. Aviation plays a crucial role in this respect as it provides unique connectivity between regions across Europe and around the globe. In our view the EU should continue to pursue liberal aviation agreements with third countries while also upgrading its airspace infrastructure to drive efficiency, reducing environmental impacts, delays and traveling times.
4. Ensure fair consumer protection
TUI supports strong consumer rights which improve the overall level of tourism services and promote fair competition. Some of the existing rules for our sector can be improved. While the recently revised Package Travel Directive provides an excellent protection for package travellers, further review should be considered to address unnecessary “red tape” and persisting uncertainty around click-through bookings. The ongoing revision of the Air Passenger Rights Regulation should be moved forward, to bring much needed legal certainty and more balanced rules. The proposed EU rules on Collective Redress should truly protect consumers and avoid abuse by commercial claim agencies.