Address by Mr. Christos Papoutsis, European Commissioner for Tourism Travel and Tourism Employment to the Conference on "Employment and Tourism"
Luxembourg, 4-5 November 1997
Mr Chairman of the Committee on Transport and Tourism of the European Parliament,
Mr Chairman of the Economic and Social Committee,
Mr Chairman of the Committee of the Regions,
Honourable Members of the European Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank the Luxembourg Presidency and Minister Boden personally, for organising this conference together with the European Commission. And to thank them for our ongoing cooperation. My thanks also to everyone, who agreed to play an active part in this Conference and thus contribute to its success. I am sure that your contribution will guarantee a high level of discussion on the topics of concern to us.
We all know how important Tourism is, in the development of the European economy. The tourism industry is the largest industry in Europe. Our Continent remains the biggest tourist destination in the world. At the same time, tourism is the major generator of new jobs in Europe. This is why we, the Presidency and the European Commission, decided to organise this Conference. To develop a common approach, for the definition of common guidelines to take advantage, of the huge possibilities Tourism has in creating new jobs. In the context of economic globalisation, the European Union must continue its efforts to adapt to the development of a new, multi-dimensional socio-economic environment. This is the only way it will be able to maximise its economic and geopolitical potential.
The European economy is going through a period of radical adjustment. Markets and enterprises are restructuring. This process is driven by innovation, competition and international trade. And it is gaining momentum with the existence of the Single Market. The aim of Economic and Monetary Union is to ensure economic stability in Europe by means of low inflation, controlled government spending and stable money markets. Economic and Monetary Union, together with the completion of the Internal Market, constitutes an important stage in the process of European integration.
Each one of us participates in and recognises the efforts of the Member States to meet the convergence criteria. This allows transition to the third phase of Economic and Monetary Union. However, this in itself is not enough, to overcome the major economic and social problems that Europe is facing.
Everyone has to realise, that unemployment is a time-bomb in the foundations of European society. At European level, however, we have not yet tackled this dramatic problem in a coherent way. A problem, affecting not only economic and social life but even Democracy itself. Today more than ever, we need a common European approach. A common European policy to secure economic development and to overcome this major problem. The Amsterdam Treaty has opened up new horizons for employment. In Amsterdam, the 15 Member States recognised, that we all must tackle the problem of unemployment in a common way and with priority.
If we really wish to have economic development, we need global macro-economic policies. We need a single market that works efficiently. And we must guarantee, that employment is at the center of all Community policies.
It is true, that the European economy is showing signs of recovery. The growth rate was 2.5% in 1996. However, we cannot yet be too optimistic about employment. The present rate of growth is not enough to combat unemployment.
It is a fact, that unemployment is getting worse, because of Europe's chronic inability to create new jobs.
It is a fact, that unemployment is getting worse, because of an underskilled work force.
And it is important to know, that if we resist adjusting to new forms of employment, we do not really care about unemployment.
And naturally, European citizens, in particular young people, cannot be denied equal opportunity in the work market.
The recent recovery certainly gives us some hope. But it is not enough. We must go further. We must make the necessary structural changes.
May I remind you, that the services sector was the only one to create many new jobs during the eighties. The figures prove it. And this still continues. In 1996, the services sector accounted for 65% of total employment.
The rapid growth of this sector, favours in particular the development of small and medium-sized enterprises.
A typical example is the tourism sector. 95% of this sector consists of small and medium-sized enterprises. And the majority of them employ fewer than 10 people. Tourism represents 6% of total employment in Europe. In other words, it employs nine million European citizens.
It is a fact that the tourism industry, together with telecommunications, information technology and transport will be the sectors with the greatest development in the next century.
And everybody agrees, that tourism is one of the sectors that will be able to create the most jobs over the next 20 years.
Personally, I believe that tourism is the ideal sector for the implementation of integrated strategies for job creation.
Let me tell you why:
Firstly, on the one hand, the tourism sector includes large multinationals that compete actively on the global market. And on the other, it consists chiefly of small and medium-sized enterprises.
Secondly, it is a sector in which all enterprises are affected by global competition. Even if they operate at a narrow local level.
Thirdly, the development of tourism directly affects a huge number of other sectors. Such as transport, infrastructure, agriculture and industry. To be more precise, let me give you a typical example. Half the photographs in the world are taken by tourists. You can imagine what this means to the photographic film industry.
Fourthly, it is a sector that employs not just skilled labour. It also employs particularly sensitive sections of the population, such as women, young people and unskilled workers.
Fifthly, it is characterised by mobility and seasonality. Thus, we have to deal with a work market of a special nature.
Sixthly, tourism makes a major contribution to regional development. It helps rural areas which seek to diversify their economies.
It helps declining industrial areas seeking new ways of development. And at the same time, it helps their work force, which is looking for employment. The same applies to urban centres. Because tourism affects town planning and contributes to the valorisation of the cultural heritage.
The sustainable development of tourist activities may prove particularly beneficial on a long term basis. Few sectors have such a great impact on socio-economic development, at both, local and regional levels.
But also, few sectors depend so directly on the protection of the environment. A tourist activity, that fails to respect the environment, ultimately undermines its own development and prospects.
All the different traditional professions are developing within the tourist industry. Professions relating to accommodation, food, transport and recreation. And also everything directly associated with these professions, such as retailing and craft industries.
Furthermore, the development of tourism affects other sectors as well. Local and national authorities are indeed encouraged to adopt policies for the protection, the support and promotion of the natural and cultural heritage. Income from tourism also contributes to the preservation of national and local traditions and the development of the arts.
A seventh reason, why tourism is the ideal sector for the implementation of integrated strategies for job creation, is its continuous state of evolution. Technological progress and changes in tourists' preferences are specific challenges.
The characteristics and the quality of services, are daily changed by technological advances. At the same time, we see the development of new forms of tourism. Religious, agricultural, environmental and sports tourism.
Naturally, these developments increasingly underline the need for education and training of the work force. Also, let us not forget that Europe has a very significant potential in the field of exports. With its great tradition and experience, the European tourist industry can effectively export its know-how to other countries. And I believe it merits assistance in this direction.
Along with all this, we have the establishment of the Monetary Union and the use of the EURO. These will open new prospects for the development of tourism and the visit of tourists from third countries. Of course, the implications of the EURO must be carefully examined by all of us.
And finally don' t forget that Tourism is a prominent area of Cooperation with all the Countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the Baltic countries as well as the Mediteranean Countries.
Tourism is already an important aspect of our bilateral and multilateral cooperation agreements. Furthermore, it consists an important element for the development of these countries, in view of their accession preparation.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
From all my previous observations, you can easily understand, why tourism is an ideal sector, for applying Community policies to boost employment.
As you know, at European level tourism already receives particular attention under the structural policies and the policies in favour of SMEs.
However, this is not enough. Not enough to make full use of the possibilities offered by this dynamic sector of the European economy. Indeed, quite the contrary. Tourism is not yet recognised, as a sector for which, we must develop a specific Community policy. A common European approach. And what is the result?? There is no substantial coordination of the Community policies which affect tourism. This is the reason why the European Commission has considered it necessary to work out new direct measures in favour of European tourism.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our proposals and activities have followed two convergent paths.
Firstly, in 1996 we proposed the first multi-annual programme in favour of European tourism, the PHILOXENIA programme. Its aims are the quality and the competitiveness of European tourism. Objectives, which aim, among other things, at boosting employment and creating new jobs. Unfortunately, at Council level there have been serious delays concerning the adoption of PHILOXENIA. I am particularly satisfied that today, thanks to the efforts of the Luxembourg Presidency and Minister Bodin, nearly all Member States have agreed to the draft programme. I hope they will adopt it before the end of the year.
Secondly, in 1997 we have focused our action on the study of a series of questions important to European tourism. And we gave priority to the employment issue.
As you know, in just over two weeks time, Heads of State and Government will meet here in Luxembourg to discuss employment.
The European Commission, wishing to contribute decisively to the debate, has defined four guidlines for the new employment policies of the Member States:
* The creation of a new spirit of entrepreneurship.
*The creation of a new spirit for the possibility of professional inclusion.
* The support and encouragement for the possibility to adapt to the new demands of the labour market.
* And finally, the strengthening of policies for equal opportunity.
These must be the guidelines for our activities and initiatives in the tourism sector.
We must now take full advantage, of the possibilities of the tourist industry to create jobs. If we are to succeed, we must address the sector's specific problems.
We decided to organise this Conference at a critical moment. Right now, employment is the subject of a more general discussion and reflection in the European Union.
Therefore, our discussions over these two days will be particularly timely.
We wanted to make maximum use of your knowledge and experience. For this reason, we structured our debate around three topics for reflection.
The first topic, concerns the development and the transparency of the tourism labour market, taking into account the developments in the tourist services market. The second topic, concerns making the best use of human resources in the tourism sector. And also their adaptation to expected developments in the "tourist activity". Our aim must be, to maximise the possibilities for professional inclusion and to improve the quality of services. The third topic, concerns the improvement of the exchange of experience and know-how in the field of initiatives for creating jobs in tourism.
Ladies and gentlemen,
All of you are involved on a daily basis with the development of European tourism. All of you are constantly faced with these challenges.
The coming discussions, your ideas and your experience, will help us to establish the guidelines for a coherent European policy for employment.
All the topics and orientations, which will be discussed and examined during these two days will make a significant contribution. They will help define the Community's approach to employment. And contribute to the co-ordination of our policies with those of the Member States.
I am particularly satisfied by Minister Boden's anouncement, that the conclusions of this Conference will be put to good use in view of the Employment Summit.
We are all aware of the particular sensitivity of President of the European Council, Prime Minister Juncker to the employment problem.
And we know of his expressed political will to have concrete decisions in favour of employment adopted. This here is the opportunity. Tourism is the opportunity. Tourism is indeed the ideal area in which to implement such policies.
We expect the European leaders to turn their attention to this major European industry. We expect them to adopt concrete measures in favour of employment in Tourism.
I want to assure you, that the conclusions reached here, will be used in the best possible way by the European Commission, in the context of our future initiatives and activities in favour of European tourism. I am sure that your dynamism, your concern and your prominence in your area, will decisively contribute to helping us establish clear "lines of action" in favour of employment in European tourism.
Thank you for your attention.