Voluntary Initiatives for Sustainability in Tourism

ITEM 1 - Building Partnerships for European Tourism

Following the pioneering work established by VISIT there is a growing recognition of the need for the building of effective partnerships in tourism across Europe. This was highlighted in October 2005 following the VISIT assembly by Günter Verheugen, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for Enterprise and Industry at the 4th European Tourism Conference in Malta. In his keynote address (which can be downloaded as a pdf) highlighted the need for greater social responsibility and sustainable development operating in partnerships between stakeholders. Some of the key elements are highlighted below:

There is a need for a better partnership between public authorities, private sector and employees.

1. A cohesive European policy is necessary to boost the competitiveness of our industry and create more growth and jobs
2. As a result there will be a new European tourism policy implemented in partnership with the member states and tourism stakeholders.

The aim of this policy will be to improve the competitiveness of the European tourism industry and create jobs through sustainable growth of tourism in Europe and globally.

The vice president went on to say that

“ To translate this policy into practice in the coming period we will concentrate our actions in a number of areas favouring partnerships and optimal use of resources. Our policy will focus on three main sets of actions:

• Better regulation and policy co-ordination
• Improved use of the available European financial instruments and
• Actions addressing specific tourism-related issues

Health and Consumer protection, Research, Information Society, Justice, Trade, Internal Market, Environment protection, Development, External Relations, Regional, Employment, Education and Training, Agriculture, Competition, Culture, Taxation, Energy and of course Transport, are all policies which affect in some way tourism. Quite often tourism is or should be integral part of these policies.

Our work will concentrate in integrating tourism in those Community policies and making sure that there is adequate co-ordination of the various policy initiatives that may impact on tourism.

If tourism does not develop in a sustainable way, it endangers the natural and cultural environment. We actively support the economic, environmental and social sustainability of the European tourism.

For this reason we set up the Tourism Sustainability Group, composed of representatives of all actors and aiming to make proposals to the Commission for the preparation, by 2007, of an Agenda 21 for the European Tourism. This should assure an adequate integration of the relevant EU policies and instruments to the goal of sustainability.

In parallel we are working to promote professional training and exchanges of apprentices, to improve the accessibility of tourism infrastructures to persons with reduced mobility and support corporate social responsibility initiatives.

Ethics and responsibility are important components of the attractiveness and competitiveness of European tourism. We must therefore make sure that child sex tourism is not associated with Europe’s tourism.

Another important area in which we can work in partnership is the promotion of Europe as a tourist destination. At the beginning of next year the European Tourist Destinations Portal will be launched on the Internet. It will give access to the web sites of all European National Tourism Organisations. This unique access point to European tourism information should improve greatly the promotion of the attractive and diverse set of European destinations to the third countries. It can give a real boost to our tourism. Every European destination will benefit from this new generation of information and knowledge tools.

The cultural wealth and diversity of Europe is one of the major advantages of our tourism and our own life. We must continue investing in the preservation of our heritage and the promotion of arts and culture across Europe.

It is worth exploring the possibility to establish a ‘European destinations of excellence award’. This award would reward destinations chosen by the Member States as good examples.

Finally we will continue our efforts in partnership with the member states and the industry to raise the visibility of European tourism. Events like this Forum and future initiatives of the Presidency together with hard facts and figures coming from the Tourism Satellite Accounts will play an important role in this endeavour.


As you see the renewed policy framework is cohesive and covers all possible areas of Community intervention. To sum up, I want to assure you that:

We will not propose un-necessary regulation;
We will not create new specific financial instruments but will take advantage of all the possibilities offered by the existing ones;
We will not seek to impose standards when those can be elaborated through voluntary self-regulation;
We will work to cut red tape and modernise existing regulation;
We will co-ordinate the Community actions affecting tourism;
We will promote actively the competitiveness and sustainable development of European tourism;
We will continue to support actions promoting Europe as a tourist destination;
We will explore ways to promote emerging forms of tourism
We will continue collaborating and consulting with all the relevant stakeholders and;
We will strengthen the visibility of the importance of the European tourism industry.

Sept 2006