Europe: the first tourism destination in the world

By | Category: Travel rumblings

Opening the European Tourism day in Brussels, Daniel Calleja Crespo of the European Commission reminded us that about 50% of all international tourism takes place in Europe. To the nations within, it is worth some €407 billion said Frederic Pierret from the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). That is how important all of us are.
Previously, CD-Traveller has pointed out how other nations such as Greece and Slovenia, Vietnam and Columbia to name but four have stressed the importance of tourism as providing quick boosts to a nation’s economy in terms of money and jobs. Now Europe is saying the same.
Crespo also pointed out that tourism can regenerate areas and protect the jobs we have. It also preserves the local culture and community so, yesterday, the European Parliament passed a 21 point agenda on tourism. All this has come about because of the importance you and I and the many billions of people around the world who travel, can make to an area. Now the EU is following in the steps of nations in ramping up its importance. Take the UK. Up until last year when had you ever heard a prime minister talk much about it? Then Cameron spoke and spoke again on the subject just last week. Tourism is one way governments can get us to open our wallets and spend money. And they need us to have confidence to spend, hence the rush to jump on the bandwagon.
Industrial heritage tourism is a comparatively new way to try and attract us to visit. There is not a lot in place but there is a lot that is part neglected and part fallen down. As one person from Flanders in Belgium said, three projects would have become car parks but for perseverance.

Tourism is an engine of growth said Crespo, echoing what politicians are saying all over the world just now. As the number one destination in the world for tourism, he wants that maintained despite the strong competition from around the world. He mentioned five key points that Europe would follow. The first was that tourists won’t just go to see any old industrial complex. It needs to offer more so there should be some diversity. Just as Blaenavon offers cycle and walking routes as well as the pit, so other sites must be prepared to offer more to the visitor. The second is that there should be a feeling of identity with the local area and that area should be a partner in the attraction. There needs to be training for locals to be able to tell visitors about the attraction and for that, the EU has funds. And finally it should be organised properly with clear structures of how it is to be run and what the aims are. Personally I can think of two sites in Wales that suffered from this lack of governance in the early days but which now, are more secure.
He talked about co-operation but laudable as this may sound, most if not all European countries are competing with every other one – and the rest of the world – to attract those visitors. Given that, will there be much co-operation other than at a basic level?
Venomous competition exists already at the tax level as Frederic Pierret from UNWTO mentioned. Departure taxes, accommodation taxes, airport taxes all stimulate or weaken demand. Yet countries are adopting these measures as they try and resolve deficits. The Netherlands dropped air passenger duty when it saw a quick and large drop in money from tourists; Ireland has substantially cut its tax. The UK raises ours. The competition to attract us may result in governments playing with taxation to help just as Ireland is playing with company taxation to attract companies and France with its 5% VAT on tourist accommodation.
It’s hard to think of something where you and I are as important as in tourism. Yet what the conversations have so far failed to questions is whether we would go and visit these places. The unspoken thought seems to be that if a site is prepared and trumpeted in the media we will go regardless of what it is.
Well I, wearing my visitor hat, am not too sure that’s true. The old expression, you can lead a horse to water comes to mind…

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