"The tourism sector has remained one of the leading job creators in Europe, but it can do more. The European Union should introduce a 'European Citizen Travel Card' in order to further promote a sense of European citizenship", the rapporteur on tourism for the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) says.
The rapporteur, Hanspeter Wagner (AT/EPP), mayor of Breitenwang in the Tyrol, told the European Tourism Day conference, which was attended by three European commissioners, that "when they travel in the EU, many Europeans realise the advantages of being a European citizen. They discover that they are protected consumers and passengers, that they can shop duty-free, that they can use a single currency in 19 EU countries, and move freely in the Schengen area. We need to capitalise on this and do more."
Mr Wagner continued: "With a European Citizen Travel Card, EU citizens could, for example, enjoy reduced prices for public transport and public museums in participating EU regions and cities. We should also create a social media-compatible GPS travel app, called 'DiscoverYrope', providing useful information on the EU country visited and offering citizens some fun and bonuses through a European travel reward programme."
These and other proposals, including a suggestion to create a European Capital of Smart Tourism Award, are contained in an opinion drafted by Mr Wagner and due for adoption on 7 December at a plenary session of the CoR, the EU's assembly for local and regional politicians.
Mr Wagner's proposals have secured the support of István Ujhelyi (HU/S&D), the Chairman of the Tourism Task Force created by the European Parliament's Transport and Tourism Committee (TRAN). "To bring citizens closer to the EU institutions, we need concrete projects based on mutual understanding," says Mr Ujhelyi, who was one of the speakers at the conference. "We can achieve that by facilitating travel for young generations with a free rail ticket and making European tourism destinations visible with the creation of the European Capital of Tourism Award. Dialogue with citizens and with civil society, including stakeholders in the tourism industry, should give us the strength to make these programmes a success across Europe in the coming years."
Patrick Torrent , President of NECSTouR (Network of European Regions for Competitive and Sustainable Tourism), who also supports the CoR own-initiative opinion underscored the importance of concerted cooperation between all levels of government and the European tourism industry.
He said: "Joint promotion is an opportunity for regions to use their diversity in order to offer a range of tourism experiences. Smart marketing and European mobility programmes should be part of this joint promotion plan."
Speakers at the European Tourism Day included three European Commissioners: Tibor Navracsics, responsible for education, culture, youth and sport; Elżbieta Bieńkowska, whose portfolio is the internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and SMEs; and Karmenu Vella, whose brief includes the environment.
Notes for editors:
Europe's tourism in figures: Europe is the world's number-one tourist destination, accounting for 51% of the global market in 2015. Directly and indirectly, the tourism industry generates 9.9% of total EU-28 GDP, a figure that is forecast to rise to 11% of GDP by 2026. In the EU, the travel and tourism sector employs almost 25 million people and visitor exports generate €374 billion per year. At a time when unemployment rates have increased dramatically, the travel and tourism sector has remained one of the leading job creators both in Europe (and worldwide), and it has high female and youth employment ratios. Its importance is amplified by its nature, as a labour-intensive sector built primarily by SMEs.
European Tourism Day 2016: This year's theme was "Enhancing synergies between tourism and cultural and creative industries. Innovative solutions as the driver for jobs and growth". The conference included a political debate and an exchange of good practices on how to better exploit the synergies between tourism, cultural heritage and creativity for the competitiveness and sustainable growth of the European tourism sector. The event gathered up to 400 participants, including: Commissioners; other representatives of the European Commission; high-level representatives of public authorities at the EU, national and regional level; and representatives of prominent European sectoral associations, the tourism and travel industry as well as other relevant stakeholders.
The Network of European Regions for Competitive and Sustainable Tourism (NECSTouR) : It brings together around 30 regions of Europe with a strong competency in tourism, as well as tourism-related academic organisations such as universities and research institutes, and representatives of sustainable and responsible tourism business associations and networks from around 20 member states of the European Economic Area. Since 2007, NECSTouR has been at the forefront of European tourism policy, lobbying to strengthen the presence of regions in the European arena.