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The President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, opens High-Level Conference on Tourism in Parliament’s Plenary chamber

The European Parliament hosted a high-level conference in Brussels yesterday, International Tourism Day, themed ‘A European strategy to enhance the competitiveness of the tourism industry’.

Opening the debate, Mr Tajani declared: ‘Tourism is a key sector for all our Member States, accounting for 10% of GDP and jobs in the European Union. It is an industry in its own right, an essential part of the mosaic which makes up Europe’s industrial fabric.

Over the next 10 years, the number of international tourists is set to double, thanks to the emergence of a new middle class, with high spending power, coming mainly from Asia. Between now and 2025, the number of tourists coming to Europe may double as well – to more than one billion – creating more than 5 million new jobs. If we want to make this possibility a reality, we must enhance our ability to hold our own in an ever more competitive global environment, in part by cooperating more closely at European level,’

‘We need to focus our efforts in a number of areas: attracting more investment, by means of a strategic plan which enables us to make greater and more effective use of EU funding; improving the business environment; promoting training commensurate with the needs of the industry; governing the digital revolution; exploiting synergies with a view to promoting Europe as a destination on international markets,’ Mr Tajani said.

‘Training is a key factor, given that firms in the tourism industry have more problems than others in finding people with the skills they are looking for. By investing more we can also create opportunities in those parts of Europe where youth unemployment is as high as 50%. The tourism industry, although it will be much affected by the digital revolution, will still need a large workforce, 20% of them young people under 25,’ Mr Tajani emphasised.

‘We must also complete the single market in services and the single digital market, with a view to enforcing competition rules and ensuring that digital platforms operate under the same conditions and the same tax arrangements as all other firms.

On average, a Chinese tourist visits four or five European Member States. The focus of competition is not between Member States, but with Asia, America, the Caribbean and the Pacific. If we want to attract more international tourists, therefore, we must join forces to promote Europe as a destination, in the same way as the USA, Canada or Australia promote themselves. The Joint Promotion Platform proposed by the Commission, in cooperation with the European Travel Commission and the regions in the Necstour network, is a step in the right direction. But we must step up our efforts even further, by giving the Platform a proper budget’, the President of the European Parliament said.

Mr Tajani concluded his remarks by saying that ‘the next EU budget should be more overtly political and reflect the concerns of ordinary people, such as the need to combat unemployment. In its own-initiative resolution adopted on the basis of the De Monte report, the European Parliament is calling for the next budget to incorporate a specific fund for tourism.’

Today’s event is part of a series of initiatives promoted by Mr Tajani to raise the profile of ‘The Citizens’ Parliament’.

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