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Speech by Mr Christos Papoutsis, European Commissioner for Tourism Travel and Tourism Employment, at the 7th International Symposium, organised by the Walled Towns Friendship Circle
Speech by Mr Christos Papoutsis, European Commissioner for Tourism Travel and Tourism Employment, at the 7th International Symposium, organised by the Walled Towns Friendship Circle

 

Chester, England, July 8th 1997


Main Points :

(...) "Sustainability indeed continues to be the major challenge for the European tourism industry. That is, sustainability in environmental and economic terms." (...)

(...) "I am a firm believer in consistent and coherent policies and measures to assist tourism at European level. Policies and measures which are needed, in order to attain the broader objectives of the European Union." (...)

(...) "Culture and heritage can function as engines for economic development and broader societal goals. Tourism, and in particular culturally based tourism, are increasingly being recognised as instruments to achieve our objectives. For an increasing number of people, culture is really now the reason for going on a holiday or journey.

A European tourism industry that is the guardian, as well as the promoter of culture, secures its own future. Thus, the development of cultural tourism contributes to the strengthening of the tourism activity all year round, and may lead to fewer environmental problems. The contribution of the Walled Towns Friendship Circle is essential here." (...)

(...) "By involving more actors in the cultural tourism marketing of a destination, these actors can contribute to the extension of the tourist season and- the regeneration of the tourist offer. They could attract new target groups and spread the flow of tourists. They could bring in more tourism revenue nationally and locally, and improve the quality of entire destinations." (...)

(...) "We must have a framework of reference for actions to assist tourism. Only then can consultation, co-ordination and collaboration have full effect." (...)

Full Text :

Your Grace,

Chairman,

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am delighted to be able to visit this remarkable town, that is both ancient and modern at the same time. The walled town of Chester has an international reputation for being one of England's principal tourist attractions and destinations.

A place where one can marvel at layer upon layer of history, spanning from the Roman period through the Middle Ages - when your magnificent cathedral was built - to the prosperity of the 19th century, and the present and modern town. Chester features one of the most intact and complete town fortifications in Europe, and is naturally a prominent partner in the Walled Town Friendship Circle.

I would like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to be with you, here today.

And I would like specially to thank Lyndon Harrison who had the initiative of organising my visit to your area.

Lyndon Harrison is one of the most active Members of the European Parliament with regard to Tourism. And he has played an important role in the promotion of European activities in the sector of Tourism.

I take this opportunity to thank him once more for his work and his support in our common efforts to develop a European Tourism policy.

I would like to commend the efforts that you are carrying out in this international forum. In sharing best practices for community development within walled towns, for encouraging tourism, whilst considering the challenges of motorised traffic, and for developing joint marketing strategies.

Your work enhances the fostering of a common European identity and genuine and rewarding partnerships across borders. Furthermore, it strengthens the cultural tourism product of Europe.

Some years ago, in 1990, the European Commission provided Community funding for the initial start-up activities of the Walled Towns Friendship Circle. The Commission supported your collaboration on historic town maintenance, visitor and traffic management, employment and specialist training requirements, among other things.

Furthermore, in 1992, the Walled Towns Friendship Circle received partial funding from the Commission for a study into "Sustainable Tourism in Walled Towns: A Handbook of Good Practices for Sustainable Tourism in Walled Towns."

The proposal was designed to address five fundamental issues. Good techniques for managing tourist sites and areas, with special relevance for walled towns;

Guidance on techniques for integrating environmental considerations into planning decisions related to tourism development. Diversifying existing concepts of "soft" tourism;

Encouraging better working relationships between the tourism sector, public and private sectors and environmental organisations. And finally, raising the awareness of the general public and different sectors of the tourism industry to environment and tourism issues.

These requirements reflect our thinking, then as now. Sustainability indeed continues to be the major challenge for the European tourism industry. That is, sustainability in environmental and economic terms.

Few industries depend as much on the natural and man-made environment as the tourism industry. The profitability and employment we are seeking from this economic activity, are no less than dependent on how well we protect the assets upon which tourism thrives.

European tourism policy takes into consideration, among other things, the need for sustainability. The need for improving the quality of the offer, and thus the overall competitiveness of the industry, as well as the satisfaction of tourist's needs. The trans-national networks within tourism, that the Commission has actively encouraged, allow for a more comprehensive treatment of all forms of tourism, including cultural tourism.

I am a firm believer in consistent and coherent policies and measures to assist tourism at European level. Policies and measures which are needed, in order to attain the broader objectives of the European Union.

Because Tourism is important for the creation of jobs and income, notably for groups like women and young people, that otherwise face disadvantages in the job market.

Tourism contributes to economic and social cohesion and regional development. Furthermore, it creates revenue for the preservation of natural and cultural resources, and contributes to the development of a European identity.

Culture and heritage can function as engines for economic development and broader societal goals. Tourism, and in particular culturally based tourism, are increasingly being recognised as instruments to achieve our objectives.

All of us concerned with the tourism industry take note that cultural experiences are no longer merely elements or components in a travel experience. For an increasing number of people, culture is really now the reason for going on a holiday or journey.

A European tourism industry that is the guardian, as well as the promoter of culture, secures its own future. Thus, the development of cultural tourism contributes to the strengthening of the tourism activity all year round, and may lead to fewer environmental problems. The contribution of the Walled Towns Friendship Circle is essential here.

Often, culture and heritage constitute the untapped resources of the European tourism industry. Although many towns in this Friendship Circle do experience a substantial influx of tourists, others may not.

It is likely that increased promotion of the - in a tourism context - "under-utilised" walled towns could be instrumental in winning more tourists, and thus draw additional purchasing power to the regions of Europe.

You may ask the question why?

The answer is that by involving more actors in the cultural tourism marketing of a destination, these actors can contribute to the extension of the tourist season and- the regeneration of the tourist offer. They could attract new target groups and spread the flow of tourists. They could bring in more tourism revenue nationally and locally, and improve the quality of entire destinations.

On the other hand, visitor management techniques are needed when tourism threatens to overwhelm local communities. The Commission therefore has been behind projects, which are designed to test innovative techniques relating to strategic and integrated planning.

In the past, having "success" in tourism was often regarded as directly corresponding to record increases in the number of visitors to destinations, and the fixation on volume was evident. Today, "success" has come to mean sustainability.

Our objective is to identify and develop best practices, and encourage the spread of information about such practices. The Commission has supported the development of several demonstration projects aiming at developing innovative techniques in the field of visitor and traffic management. These projects will be concluded soon and their results will be widely disseminated.

Through our work programme for 1997, we in the Commission aim at reflecting the policies and objectives of the Union. For example, we emphasise competitiveness as fundamental to growth and employment. Competitiveness is enhanced by improved quality, and our work programme this year has, as one of its actions, a study of integrated quality management at tourist destinations, that is: coastal, mountain, rural and urban destinations.

We have found that the success of a destination in terms of the satisfaction of the tourist is a function of several interdependent components. This underscores the need for strategic and integrated planning in respect of tourist destinations, together with the selective use of specific tools and techniques to address integrated quality management - including quality control - of the destination.

As I mentioned earlier, my belief is that European tourism is best served by coherent measures and structured policies. We must have a framework of reference for actions to assist tourism. Only then can consultation, co-ordination and collaboration have full effect.

There has been an ongoing debate in recent years on the role of the Community in tourism policy. Especially, since 1995 when the Commission produced the Green Paper on the role of the Union in the field of Tourism.

The outcome of the Green Paper and the evaluation of the Action Plan to Assist Tourism 1993-95 contributed to shaping the lines and priorities upon which the future of tourism policy in the Union should be based.

European tourism needs and deserves improved co-operation at all levels. And, this applies also to various Community policies, most of which affect tourism directly and indirectly.

As regards specific measures in favour of tourism, the Commission's proposal for a new multiannual programme, called PHILOXENIA, has received the approval of the European Parliament. At present, we are actively exploring the possibilities for a decision of the Council of Ministers. I hope that this decision will be reached, in the coming months, during the Luxembourg Presidency.

Your Grace,

Chairman,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I want, once more, to express my gratitude to Lyndon Harrison, for his continuous support for our efforts to promote tourism policy in Europe.

I am grateful for the links that the European Commission has established with the Walled Towns Friendship Circle, and I wish you the very best of success here at your 7th International Symposium.


SPEECH/97/155