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Brussels, 10 March 2014
Commission supports Maritime and Coastal Tourism and assists SMEs to access markets in Greece
Small and medium sized enterprises in Greece, including many operating in the costal tourism sector, have been hit hard by the economic crisis. They face many challenges that require adapting to new ways of doing business, accessing markets and funding. Tourism, as the "heavy industry" of Greece and maritime and coastal tourism and blue growth, represents a unique opportunity to re-ignite Greece's SME's and its path to growth and competitiveness. To explore the tourism sector's potential to create growth and new jobs, today in Athens European Commissioner European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Maria Damanaki, the Greek Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras and the Greek Minister of Tourism Olga Kefalogianni will open a High Level conference on Maritime and Coastal Tourism. Tomorrow a Commission led "Mission for growth" will also bring representatives of about 145 European companies to Greece, to participate in bilateral meetings with 330 SMEs from across Greece with the aim to form new partnerships and discuss opportunities for collaboration.
Maritime and Coastal Tourism
Coastal and maritime tourism is one of the key drivers for creating growth and new jobs in Europe, and in particular in our coastal areas which often suffer from high unemployment. Coastal and maritime tourism is a pillar of the overarching "Blue Growth" strategy and has a potential to create growth and new jobs, particularly in areas with high unemployment. It is the largest maritime economic activity and the main economic driver in many coastal regions. It employs almost 3.2 million people, generating a total of € 183 billion in gross value added and representing over one third of the maritime economy. As the largest maritime economic activity and the economic backbone of many of our coastal regions the Commission seeks to help this sector develop and prosper.
The Commission has just presented a new strategy to enhance coastal and maritime tourism in Europe. It proposes 14 Actions to enable coastal regions and business to tackle the challenges and make a quantum leap in order to exploit opportunities for growth and jobs sustainably. The new strategy also calls on industry stakeholders, Regions and Member States to take up the challenges and complement the EU actions.
Conference: Europe 2020 Strategy for growth
SMEs are important as they provide 85% of all new jobs. An essential element to help SMEs to grow is the formation of business partnerships and networks. Recent efforts implemented by the Greek government are starting to have positive effects on enterprises and as a consequence on the overall conditions of the economy. To further help SMEs in Greece emerge from the downturn and participate in the new upcoming economic growth cycle, and as part of the Europe 2020 Strategy for growth representatives from SMEs and also the European Commission's Directorate General for Enterprise and industry are also travelling to Athens. Central to this visit, will be the business to business networking event which will take place on 11 March. The aim of the event is to promote business partnerships between Greek and other EU companies, but also with other non-European countries in sectors identified as key contributors to achieving growth in the country: tourism, agri-food, food processing, aquaculture, biotechnology and blue biotechnology, energy and ICT.
Towards a more favourable business environment
The Greek business environment has undergone major changes during the last four years. Government reforms resulted in reduction of the cost and the time to start-up an enterprise. Steps for licencing procedures have been reduced from 24 to 7. Structural reforms have been introduced to reduce administrative burden for SMEs and reduce relevant costs. New tools have been introduced to provide access to funding for companies that in the recent past faced major cash problems due to liquidity shortage, taxation reforms and the banking sector re-capitalisation.
In response, the Commission introduced COSME, a new € 2.3 billion program for SMEs which aims to address the main challenges they are currently facing, such as access to financing, access to foreign markets, improvement of the business environment and support to entrepreneurs. Among other things, this program will help EU enterprises, including the ones in Greece, deal with the current credit crunch by enabling them to receive more than 22 billion euros in secured loans over the next seven years (IP/13/1135).
Funding opportunities have also recently arisen out of the new Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. For example, a new "SME Instrument" (with the help of the Enterprise Europe Network) will support innovative SMEs, during an entire innovation cycle: from the conception of the innovative idea, to the final creation of the new product or service. Companies will then have the responsibility to commercialize their innovations using existing mechanisms of access to finance.
Main economic sectors in Greece
The service sector is the primary sector in the Greek economy and tourism is one of the main sectors both in terms of economic growth and employment. In 2011 tourism and travel represented 18.4% of total employment and 16.5% of the GDP.1 Greece also features strong specialisation in the food processing industry. Other important sectors are metal, chemicals, cement and textile. The Greek merchant fleet is the largest in the world. Greek ship owners control 15% of the world’s shipping capacity. The aim is to improve competitiveness and change the economy’s structure in favour of an investment- and export-led growth model.
WTTC Travel and Tourism economic Impact 2012