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Address by Mr. Christos Papoutsis, European Commissioner for Tourism Travel and Tourism Employment, European Week of Tourism
 
 
Address by Mr. Christos Papoutsis, European Commissioner for Tourism Travel and Tourism Employment

European Week of Tourism


Naples, May 10th 1996



Professor d'Addio,
Ministers.
Ladies and gentlemen

I should like to start by extending my special thanks to the Italian Presidency for its initiative in organising this meeting. It gives us today an opportunity, to survey the progress that has been made since the Barcelona Conference, and the Forum on European Tourism, held in Brussels last December.

These two events lead us to two important conclusions.

Firstly, I believe we all agree that the time has come for us to concern
ourselves more seriously with tourism.
An activity which forms, and will continue to form, a basic element of
cultural, economic and social life in our countries.

Secondly, both the problems and the prospects of tourism are frequently
common to our countries.


Tourism represents a major economic activity for all the countries of the Mediterranean. The tourist industry makes a decisive contribution to the economic and regional development of these countries and to the creation of jobs.

The Mediterranean attracts some 300 million tourists each year, and the countries of the Mediterranean have a long tradition and great experience in the field of tourism.

For that reason, the Commission proposed in Barcelona that tourism should be included in the fields of Euro-Mediterranean cooperation.

Today we are being asked to discuss and study the specific content to be given to the partnership between Europe and the Mediterranean countries. How we can measure up to the objectives and principles laid down at the Barcelona Conference.

I believe we all agree on the importance of developing our cooperation in the field of tourism.

To this end, we must agree on a series of measures, with particular emphasis on information, training and promotion.

Before going on to specific proposals, however, we must analyse the features of tourism in the wider region of the Mediterranean.

Our common priority must be to exploit human potential as a fundamental factor in the development of tourist undertakings, and in particular SMEs. Our common objective must be to improve the quality of the tourist services on offer.

The promotion of Mediterranean tourism must safeguard and make known the rich natural, historical and cultural heritage of our countries.

As the cradle of civilisations and religions, the Mediterranean is also the proper place for developing alternative forms of tourism. For example cultural, educational, archaeological, religious and ecological tourism, which will give a new quality and impetus to both the economy and the cultural and regional development of our countries.

Allow me at this point to stress the contribution of tourism to understanding and friendship between our peoples. And let us not forget the new opportunities being opened up by progress in the peace process in the Middle East.

However, there is another serious matter which should be concerning us - the security of tourists and the effects on tourism of terrorist activities. This is unfortunately a problem today in some regions of the Mediterranean, and we have to discuss now that we are to developing a new form of cooperation in the field of tourism.

Nowadays we have understood that the Community's activity in the field of tourism must offer an added value over and above the efforts being undertaken at local, regional, national and international level.

The European Commission has got the message and is taking steps to translate it into a new strategic approach. Our aim in this field is to ensure that the measures meet the needs of the tourist industry, and naturally of the tourists.

In these efforts, we have aimed to establish close contact with all those who have made tourism one of the largest industries in the world.

The European Commission initiated with the publication, in April 1995, of the Green Paper on the role of the Union in the field of tourism wide- ranging consultation process. This has given everyone an opportunity to make known their views on the major problems affecting European tourism.

The support and the interest that our work has stimulated, together with the valuable suggestions and recommendations, have encouraged us to proceed further. We are fully aware of the expectations placed on Community action.

Furthermore, experience has taught us that the effectiveness of our action depends, not just on how many programmes we have financed, but on the level of coordination and cooperation.

If we want people with different cultural backgrounds, interests and experience to work together, we must apply the principles we agreed to at the Barcelona Conference.

We cannot continue to complain about unemployment and, at the same time, hesitate to take positive action in a sector that has enormous job creation potential.

We cannot speak of satisfying the needs of tourists and of understanding between peoples without helping operators in the tourist sector develop a genuine and contemporary "culture of hospitality".

We cannot just worry about the destruction of the natural and cultural heritage. We must concern ourselves with the balanced and sustainable development of tourism.

In adopting recently the First Multiannual Programme on European Tourism, the European Commission agreed on the creation of a framework for translating these principles into action.

And since words have a power of their own, we decided to call the programme "Philoxenia". A word that means hospitality, thus sending out a clear message as to what tourism is - the opposite of xenophobia.

The joy of welcoming people from other countries is a basic feature of this activity, which has developed over the past few decades into a major industry.

The Philoxenia programme, in conjunction with the other Community measures affecting tourism, focuses on specific priorities. Priorities which I believe reflect common concerns about the future of tourism and the relevant role of the European Union in this sector.

We are not aspiring to solve all the problems of tourism. Nor do we have ready formulae or lessons as far as tourist policy is concerned. Public authorities and businesses are already doing first-class work, and we will draw valuable conclusions from this.

However, the question is whether we are sure that we are exploiting all our potential. I think that most of us will answer "no", in spite of our good intentions.

How can we ensure that the results of the work done by each and every person on common problems will be made know to everybody else?

How can we avoid duplicating time and resources, when we are studying the same problem and testing the same solutions?

The answer is easy: by developing coordination and cooperation.

This is the operating principle of the programme that applies to each of the scheduled measures. The programme is structured around special objectives that we think fundamental to strengthening the competitiveness of the European tourist industry.

I would like to briefly outline these objectives, since they are clearly of interest to our Mediterranean partners. Particularly to Cyprus and Malta, which have secured access to the programme as countries in the pre-accession process.

Firstly, we must improve knowledge. Despite the progress made in recent
years, there is still not enough up-to-date, easy-to-use information on
the development of tourist markets, or on Community legislation and
practice.

Secondly, we must improve the legislative and economic environment for
tourism. This requires regular cooperation and consultation with the
national authorities, the industry and any other bodies involved.

Thirdly, we must improve the quality of European tourism, concentrating
on developing sustainable tourism and removing the obstacles tourist
development faces.

Fourthly, we must increase the numbers of tourists from third countries,
by promoting Europe as a tourist destination.

We have a joint obligation to ensure that these objectives do not remain just good intentions. With the help of the new programme, these objectives can be achieved. And we are ready to get to work as soon as the Council of Ministers agrees to our proposals.

I am certain that we can exchange experience and successful practice with our Mediterranean partners, with a view to making our joint efforts much more successful.

The implementation of the Philoxenia and Meda programmes will provide us with the proper framework for developing a consistent strategy for tourism.

In carrying out the work programme which constitutes the follow-up to the Barcelona Conference we are insisting, that tourism should be among this year's priorities.

As was recognized at the first meeting of the cooperation committee last April, progress has already been made. Particularly on providing better information on tourist flows.

A series of missions has been carried out to assess the existing statistical systems applied to tourism in non-Member Mediterranean countries. We shall try to help improve the performance of those systems, and their compatibility with statistics in the Community countries.

Pilot programmes involving both Community and other Mediterranean countries are being developed to find suitable solutions to questions of how to manage cultural attractions and routes.

It should be noted that the Council of Ministers, which will be meeting next Monday, will in all likelihood adopt a Resolution on the general outline of the future Euro-Mediterranean cooperation in the field of tourism.

There are also plans to organize in the near future a technical meeting between tourist authorities and the main professional federations. In order to improve knowledge of Community legislation as it affects tourism. I believe that this could be of interest to our Mediterranean partners.

I am very interested to hear your views and proposals.

The European Commission for its part will continue to draw up proposals and initiatives for achieving the objectives set out in the Barcelona Declaration.

Let us continue to work together in this important field. To develop Euro- Mediterranean cooperation in the field of tourism and give a new boost to tourism in the Mediterranean.

Thank you for your attention and for the cooperation we are all looking forward to.


SPEECH/96/116

 

 
Ημ. Έκδοσης:10/05/1996 Share Εκτύπωση
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