Europe Needs a Proper Tourism Policy. Paolo Costa MEP sets out his case

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European tourism policy has to be considered in a political framework defined by limited competences for the EU institutions, powers that are exercised in a very prudent way.

Europe needs a proper tourism policy. Paolo Costa MEP sets out his case.

First published by "", 31 July 2006.

European tourism policy has to be considered in a political framework defined by limited competences for the EU institutions, powers that are exercised in a very prudent way.

The strictly community level actions for the tourism sector of formal powers given by the members states to the EU are unfortunately not very significant.

In the current situation, we have to admit that the EU constitution is - or should I say was - the highest expression of a European tourism policy (see articles I-17 and III-281).

In the restricted sense we can talk about a European tourism policy, it is highly influenced by non-tourist policy such as EU decision-making on a range of areas such environment or transport.

But here, I argue that even if European competences in the tourist sector are quite limited, I firmly believe that the EU has to exploit them in a better way.

We have to start from the point that tourism is a local product but one that is sold in a global market.

The chain involving the production and the selling of tourist products is a complex one that supposes a local management of resources, reception, accessibility and marketing but a regional, national or European management of promoting and communications.

The preservation of tourist sources, the reception of visitors, organisation, mobility and accessibility to the tourist destination, marketing and communication are a bit like the “matryoshka” - Russian dolls of decreasing sizes placed inside another.

The governance model of tourism is a “matryoshka” model, one that because of its overlapping but distinct tasks does not accept exclusive competences at either the local, regional, national or European level.

For tourism policy to work, legal and administrative competences have to be exercised in a cooperative way between all the different government levels.

Considering European tourism policy in a broader, more global sense, we begin to see that the EU does already have a huge influence on the sector.

Non-tourist policy in the established areas of transport, environment, culture and others are powerful levers.

And, under existing treaties, these competences are among the most important at European level.

The areas these EU policies overlap with the tourism sector are numerous:

• Tourist sources are protected and their value increased by a range of the EU’s environmental and cultural actions.

• Mobility and accessibility to tourists are enabled by infrastructure and transport policies that make travel quicker, easier and vale for money.

• Health policies too can play a role in, for example, thermal tourism to Europe’s many famous baths and spas.

• EU migration policies, freedom and ease of movement for tourists, has a big influence on the flow of visitors in a specific country.

In my forthcoming own initiative report on the commission communication on a renewed EU tourism policy, I will set out all the steps that the EU has to take, both in order to have more competences in the tourist sector but also the way to exercise policy in the most fruitful way.

As we know, the tourism sector generates more than four per cent of the EU’s GDP.

In order to make good on the Lisbon goals exploiting the tourist sector for the creation of new jobs, European institutions can no longer leave all the most relevant tourism competences to the member states.