Opening speech by Mr. Christos Papoutsis, European Commissioner for Tourism Travel and Tourism Employment, at the 17th World Travel Market
London, November 17th 1997
Your Grace, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today I want to talk to you about challenges.
But, before that, let me tell you that the European Commission thinks highly of the World Travel Market. Indeed, it has a special stand here.
With its 17 year history, the Market has really created its own tradition within the Tourism Industry. An industry which is not taking its tradition for granted, but is constantly evolving in order to face new challenges.
And now for those challenges:
For most people, tourism is a story of fun in the sun. But for millions of others, like all of you gathered here, tourism is a very important business. It is your business.
This is part of the challenge which you and I face every day. Trying to convince all the decision makers that tourism is the biggest industry in the world.
It is a fact that travel and tourism, together with telecommunications and information technology, will be the sectors with the greatest development and growth in the next century. The industry is getting more and more competitive worldwide. The public authorities, therefore, must face the challenge of providing support for tourism development.
Tourism is not just an industry which generates growth, especially in peripheral regions. It also has a number of important characteristics which constitute new challenges for all of us.
Tourism, first of all, is a major creator of jobs. Not only directly, in tourism businesses, but also via its "flow-through effect" on other economy sectors, such as infrastructure, crafts, SMEs, transport, agriculture and commerce.
The European Commission has already identified a number of issues which need to be addressed so as to create more sustainable jobs in Europe. Issues like education and training, mobility and seasonality, public-private sector partnerships, social dialogue, structural policies and innovation.
It is clear that addressing these issues will produce increased competitivity. And this is the major objective for tourism.
As a matter of fact, I will be inviting leading members of the tourism industry, in the framework of a Wise Men committee, to advise me on the best way to deal with these issues.
Furthermore, in order to make tourism competitive, we have to make sure that we protect and develop our natural and cultural heritage. A tourist activity that fails to respect the environment, undermines its own development and prospects.
We also must take full advantage of the developments in technology and the information society.
I am really pleased to see that the themes of technology and the environment have been given special emphasis by the World Travel Market over the past years.
The European Commission is actively working to facilitate the industry's response to these challenges. We are also trying to improve the legal and financial environment in which the tourist actors operate.
The introduction of the single European currency, the Euro, will facilitate the performance of our tourism industry and make travel a lot easier within the European Union. No more pockets full of useless foreign coins when we get home from a holiday!
But, if we really want to be successful, we have to cooperate with each other. The World Travel Market is a demonstration of how we can work together. Of how we can exchange knowledge and experiences.
We must not forget that tourism brings people together, irrespective of ethnic, cultural or political differences.
We are determined to continue our cooperation with all our partners in the field of tourism around the world.
We, of course, give specific importance to our cooperation with our neighbours in the Mediterranean area and Central and Eastern Europe.
We also, systematically, assist the tourist development of many other countries. It is a pleasure for me to see that a lot of countries are promoting their tourism attractions here, at the World Travel Market, thanks to Community support.
As a major priority, I would like to ask for everyone's cooperation on an important issue. The phenomenon of sex tourism, especially the sexual abuse of children. Public opinion and the tourism industry have already reacted against child sex tourism. I call on everyone connected with the industry to cooperate with the European Commission in the fight against this appalling practice. The rights of children must be upheld. We must care for children and their rights. We must protect children and their rights. If we don't, it is as if we don't care about their future. It is as if we don't care about the future of society.
Your Grace, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The World Travel Market is an event which shows the innovation, dynamism and imagination, which the market-place for travel and tourism products and services, represents.
It is also an important opportunity for world tourism actors to network. And, for some of us, it is an opportunity to choose our holiday destination!
I am very pleased, therefore, to declare the World Travel Market open for business.