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European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
"Maritime and Coastal Tourism: The Way Ahead"
European Tourism Day 2012/Brussels
27 September 2012
Dear Minister De Marco, honourable Members of the European Parliament, distinguished Speakers, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be here with you today and celebrate European Tourism Day.
I'm happy to see the room filled with industry representatives, national and regional government officials, and even students. It means that you are all interested in coastal and maritime tourism. And you are quite right:
This sector is the largest not just within the tourism industry, but also within the whole maritime industry. It helps our economy with high employment numbers. Unquestionably it is and will continue to be a key factor for Europe's prosperity.
So, on this Day, I want us to envision the road ahead for Coastal and Maritime Tourism in Europe.
Over half the hotel capacity in Europe is concentrated along the coasts. Nearly two and a half million people work in coastal tourism; another quarter of a million are in yachting and marinas, while cruise tourism employs 150 000 jobs and generates a direct turnover of 14 and a half billion euro. Last year alone, the cruise industry operating in Europe hosted more than 6 million passengers, and even at times of crisis, the segment continues to grow.
Despite being a mature sector, coastal and maritime tourism still carries significant economic potential. In our vision, it has exactly what it takes for Blue Growth!
We have just published a Communication on Blue Growth in which we claim that our seas and oceans can be formidable drivers of the economy. We try to facilitate investment in those areas of blue economy, in which there is still dormant potential of new growth and jobs. We try to solve the bottlenecks' problems, in five areas: marine energy, biotechnology, aquaculture, bottom sea mining and maritime tourism.
If you think about a maritime and coastal tourism, you recognize the ingredients of success: Europe’s coasts are many and diverse; their beautiful landscapes are complemented by unique cultural wonders; the coastal and maritime tourism sector is expected to grow by 2 to 3% by 2020, and the yachting one by the same amount each year! But there are challenges. Seasonality, that you discussed earlier today, and the dependency on sun-and-beach tourism are major ones. There are others: Poor accessibility of certain coastal destinations - especially islands – is usually an obstacle for further development. The lack of skilled professional is also a problem to be solved. Also we have to see the future: the impact of tourism on marine habitats and ecosystems, the impact of climate change to coastal erosion for example.
Nor can we neglect the competition from non-EU destinations, now that air travel is cheaper. And some remote areas are still underdeveloped… But it is often said that "where there's a will, there's a way".
Because we have the will, we are now building a European policy framework that will support and complement the initiatives of Member States. In an imminent Communication, we will give recommendations and suggest actions to reap the full potential of a sustainable and smart tourism industry.
The new Communication on Challenges and Opportunities for Coastal and Maritime Tourism in Europe will promote dedicated sea-basins approaches and synergies between regions and across borders. Joint initiatives can add to the strength of Europe’s coastal and maritime offer: the Adriatic-Ionian Forum is undertaking a joint promotion of tourist-packages, and this is a perfect example of how to enhance the appeal of a region simply by joining efforts.
In view of the Communication, we held a public consultation that focused on four priority areas of a future strategy: competitiveness, sustainability, image and financial support.
We received a massive response - from stakeholders and from national and regional institutions, but also from businesses, academia and private citizens. The results will be discussed in the upcoming discussion panel, and will feed into the future Communication, planned for the first quarter of next year.
I said at the beginning that I want us to look out to the road ahead. High quality of our sector has to be secured. Any European strategy for coastal and maritime tourism has to be guided by environmental, economic and social considerations.
Two Europeans out of three choose already our own coasts and seas for their holidays. If we aim to attract more tourists – and we should, especially from outside Europe -, we will need to take environmental sustainability into account.
Moreover, a large share of our population – almost half the EU population, in fact - already live in coastal areas. So any policy for tourism needs to be designed not only with sustainability in mind, but also in a socially responsible and inclusive way. Our final goal must be to improve the income, the jobs and ultimately the quality of life of those who work with tourists.
We have already started working in this sense: for example, the European Fisheries Fund funds projects dedicated to 'fish-tourism'. Now we will promote the diversification of products and services even more. I'm thinking for example of underwater archaeological parks for diving tourism, of regional circuits for nautical sports, of regional branding for gastronomic products…
A good way to add a new dimension to the holiday experience is by coupling it with the maritime or industrial heritage of a region, which makes the destination interesting throughout the year and provides stable revenue.
To conclude, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Coastal and maritime tourism is doing well, but its true potential is still untapped.
Because the sector is highly competitive, to win we need clear political commitment. In a couple of weeks, in Cyprus, the Union's Ministers will be discussing a marine and maritime agenda for growth and jobs and a possible political declaration on the subject. In this framework I am sure that a highly-diversified and sustainable coastal and maritime tourism in Europe is a goal shared by all.
Our coasts are part of our common heritage, and they deserve to be used sustainably and to the benefit of the European people.