A Conversation with Eduardo Santander, Executive Director at European Travel Commission (ETC).

  1. Which is the main scope of the Tourism Manifesto? Why was it needed?

Tourism represents a key sector of the European economy, generating almost 10% of total EU-28 GDP and employing 25 million people. Despite these valuable benefits, European tourism does not receive the importance it deserves on the policy making scene.

Brussels, January 2014.

Brussels, January 2014.

In response to this challenge, European public and private stakeholders have united and with a common voice presented their “Tourism for Growth and Jobs Manifesto” last year. Following extensive consultations, the tourism stakeholders including the European Travel Commission, identified eight common EU policy priorities for the sector in the coming years: competitiveness, digitalisation, good governance, joint promotion, reducing seasonality, skills and qualification, sustainability and transport connectivity. The tourism stakeholders came together to call for joint initiatives of the European institutions in these key priorities, which seek to ensure that the continent remains an attractive destination and that the tourism sector continues to make a significant contribution to economic growth and job creation in the European economy. A unique initiative of its kind in the history of European tourism, the Manifesto is currently endorsed by 30 associations representing each subsector, both public and private. The initiative is welcomed by the European Commission and receives great support from the European Parliament. The full text of the Manifesto is available on www.tourismmanifesto.eu.

  1. How a more integrated approach to the travel and tourism sector can be established in EU in the short and in the long term?

As set out in the Tourism Manifesto, the EU needs to develop a new long-term strategy and work plan with clear aims, objectives, indicators and actions for tourism in the EU by involving all tourism stakeholders. In addition, the EU should ensure appropriate funding to support the European Commission’s priorities and the needs of workers, enterprises and the European organizations.

Another essential pillar to achieve the sustainable growth of European tourism is the deep cooperation between public and private stakeholders at continental, national, regional and local levels. Furthermore, all tourism stakeholders should coordinate their individual efforts and streamline their activities to complement the actions undertaken at EU level.

In order for Europe to remain a competitive destination, tourism stakeholders, in cooperation with the European institutions, must work together to eliminate travel barriers for overseas markets (such as visas, taxation, interconnectivity, consumer protection, etc.). Following the launch of the Manifesto, we have seen an increased cooperation among the stakeholders to tackle these issues.

  1. ETC plays a key role in building and promoting “Europe” as a tourist destination, through the “Destination Europe” strategy. Which are the challenges and the perspectives?

At the core of ETC’s strategy are the stimulation of competitiveness and the promotion of sustainable growth of the European tourism sector by raising awareness for Destination Europe’ in long-haul markets.

Since its launch in 2012, one of the main achievements of the “Destination Europe 2020” initiative was the identification of visitors’ perception of Europe in four key markets (Brazil, China, Canada and USA) and what this entails in terms of future promotion/marketing activities to offer a better experience to visitors. Building on these research results, ETC identified highly appealing pan-European products which were included in the complete revamp of the VisitEurope.com portal. With a brand new design and inspirational content, the portal opened the window to a broader scope of new marketing and promotional opportunities for ‘Destination Europe’.

Considering that ‘Destination Europe’ is perceived in long-haul markets as unifying umbrella of Europe’s wealth of unique experiences, it should be promoted by using a common visual identity. ETC is already working on the creation of a unique visual identity for ‘Destination Europe’ that will add value and complement, but not compete with, the individual marketing and promotional efforts of the different European countries and ETC member NTOs.

In this regard, it is crucial that tourism organisations at all levels continue to strengthen their collaborations under the umbrella of a common European approach. ‘Destination Europe’ provides an inclusive holistic approach creating advantages for both established and less known destinations without creating confusion or further competition.

As mentioned before, a key role in building a successful promotional strategy is the cooperation between public and private stakeholders. Thanks to our new Associate Membership Programme and our joint public-private online marketing campaign recently launched in the USA, we are able to strengthen our cooperation with the private sector and increase the impact of our promotional activities in overseas markets.

In the long-term, ETC’s strategy will focus on raising awareness of ‘Destination Europe’ through cooperative marketing activities based on pan-European, transnational thematic products and experiences, especially on our revamped VisitEurope.com portal.

  1. How ETC embraces sustainability?

Promoting and ensuring sustainable development of European tourism is of great importance for the European Travel Commission. Sustainability represents one of the pillars of ETC’s advocacy programme along with improved connectivity and visa facilitation for leisure and business travellers.

Sustainability in all its aspects – environmental, socio-cultural and economic – should be seen as an essential component in the development of the tourism industry in Europe. We have seen some significant progress in this direction, but much remains to be done.

During the past years, ETC embarked in a wide range of activities in the area of sustainability. In 2015, we signed an agreement with the Foundation for European Sustainable Tourism (FEST), committing to support governments, academies and organisations to plan, deliver and manage sustainable tourism programmes and projects. One of these projects is PM4SD® (Project Management for Sustainable Tourism), a qualification which enables project managers to efficiently plan and implement tourism related projects with a special focus on sustainability.

ETC has been an active supporter of the Summer School in Leadership and Governance for Sustainable Tourism, which will reach its 4th edition this year. The high level event, co-organized by FEST and ETC, will be hosted by the Icelandic Tourist Board on 5th-9th October 2016 and will tackle one of the most important themes in the tourism industry: how to plan and deliver transformative tourism projects and initiatives to generate a sustainable visitor economy. (http://summerschool.festfoundation.eu/)

In partnership with FEST, we are currently working on a benchmarking project aimed at understanding the current situation of the main issues affecting the sustainable development of tourism in Europe, with the final goal of elaborating recommendations useful for European tourist destinations in their marketing endeavors.

  1. Which are the key components to make destinations competitive and innovative? Any example to share?

From the international perspective, European tourism market is still very much focused on intra-European tourism – more than 80% of international tourism arrivals in Europe come from inside our continent. There is a huge potential in third markets, especially in Asia, and European destinations should invest more to attract those potential travellers and be prepared to welcome them, as their expectations, needs and mentality are different than ours.

In order to gain a long-tern competitive advantage and embrace innovation, European destinations should capitalise more on the advanced ICT technologies, exploit long-term behavioural and attitudinal consumer lifestyle trends, adapt their product offerings to inspire customers increasingly seeking for diversified travel experiences and better explore the opportunities given by the public-private partnerships.

ETC intends to commission a strategic report that investigates the competitiveness of the European tourism industry in the light of shifts resulting from a transforming business environment in a global context. The aim of the report is to provide European tourist destinations and their stakeholders with insights and guidance on how to adapt to and extract advantages from a transforming marketplace. The Invitation for Tender for this report has been published on ETC’s website, www.etc-corporate.org.

  1. Which would be a quote dedicated to EU tourism stakeholders?

Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success. —Henry Ford

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