The event “Tourism – a key driver for socio-economic progress’” organized by EURACTIV with the support of TUI Group took place on the 26th of February. The dialogue explored the challenges and opportunities for EU tourism and how it can impact EU’s socio-economic success in the future. EfVET is committed with the promotion and improvement of sustainable and inclusive tourism through our projects: DC4Work, Digital Tourism and GROWMAT.

The debate was moderated by Ross Melzer (EU Affairs Director, EURACTIV). The first intervention was made by Antti Peltomaki (Deputy Director General, DG Grow, European Commission). Asked if tourism is underestimated by policymakers, he reminded that the EU’s competence in tourism is that of support and coordination. Nevertheless, he acknowledged that more common effort and collaboration is needed in order to raise the profile of Europe as a sustainable tourism destination. It is precisely sustainability as a competitive advantage that will allow our continent to keep being the world leader in the sector. Tourism needs to be smarter, more sustainable, creating quality jobs and innovating.

Elena Kountoura (Minister of Tourism, Greece) defended the role of tourism a major driving force capable of producing a strong positive impact on other sectors such as construction, agriculture, transportation and fashion. It is an extremely useful tool to increase awareness of the common European identity and our enriching diversity. That is why it should be considered a priority and included in all levels of policymaking. We need a common strategy for sustainable tourism growth focused on people, cultural heritage and supporting local communities. It is vital to betting on the digital transformation in the tourism industry and this can only be achieved through continuous education, skill building and lifelong learning.

Claudia Tapardel (MEP, Member TRAN Committee) emphasized the necessity to increase the investment in the digital skills development and to prioritize tourism at EU level. This is the proper moment to ask for a clear and integrated strategy to face the many challenges the sector is confronted to (overcrowded destinations, job seasonality, sustainability, etc.). In this regard, Ines Ayala (MEP, Member TRAN Committee) called for unity and raising awareness of the importance of tourism. We have to overcome subsidiarity and understand that a common European policy is needed. ‘’In Europe, we have no petrol, we have tourism and this should be a reminder of the value of tourism as a source of wealth and a driver for European values’’.

Kerstin Howald (Tourism Sector Secretary, European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions) provided the opportunity to discuss about the social perspective on Tourism. Social progress is the base for tourism and any future policy needs to have a strong social pillar. The new business models must respect the rules and create decent and sustainable jobs. She has also indicated that the solution for tackling the industries complains about the lack of qualified people is investing in digitalization and human capital.

Last but not least, Jane Ashton (Group Director Sustainable Development, TUI Group) focused on tourism as a force of good able to activate and drive education, entrepreneurship, employment opportunities and sustainability. The inclusion of tourism in the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals represents an important step forward in the priorities agenda. She also encouraged the investment in local technologies as a huge business opportunity for the tourism sector that could have a beneficial repercussion on local communities.