I had the pleasure to interview István UJHELYI, Member of the European Parliament, Vice-Chair of the Committee on Transport and Tourism and responsible for the Tourism Task Force Group of the European Parliament. István UJHELYI shares with us his vision and his approach for a growing tourism industry in EU. We talk about The Tourism Manifesto, the initiative “European Capital of Tourism, the role of the European Parliament in connection with International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development in 2017 and European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018EU-China Tourism Year 2018.
SB: Which is your vision of the European Tourism? Which the challenges and the priorities?
IU: Since my arrival to the European Parliament, I am working on to get tourism policy to that level that it has deserved. My visions contains two approaches, the first to get together those MEPs who are interested in tourism policy and working them together in the Tourism Task Force to get many legal topics to the Committee Agenda. We did a lot, starting with VISA issues, the sustainability, the affects of terrorism to the tourism industry etc. The second approach was to get the tourism stakeholders together in Brussels and initiated to have a Common Manifesto for Jobs and Growth. A sole voice with the common approaches and strategies towards the development of tourism industry. Till today almost 40 associations have joined and signed the Manifesto. I am a strong believer not giving long speeches but having concrete actions and implement them. During the past years several of my initiations, project proposals were supported by the European Commission which are in the implementation phase now. The Tourism sector is a diversified and inclusive industry with many challenges and future possibilities. I mean the new initiations and their relations to Tourism, like the initiation to give “free-Interrail ticket” to all 18 years old European young citizens and the various forms of circus arts.
SB: Your have recently announced the launch of the initiative “European Capital of Tourism”. Will this initiative be launched soon through a pilot action? Any details you can share with us?
IU: This was my initiation with MEP Muselier and three weeks ago the Parlament voted 2.5 million euro for the coming three years of implementation of this preparatory action. The first “brainstorming session” was just held last week, where the representatives of the Tourism Stakeholders, private tourism companies and the representative of EU institutions (Committee of Regions, Commission and MEPs). With this project, we would like to give more visibility to European regions and cities so they can attract more tourists. This new project can significantly improve the accessibility and quality of both local and regional tourism, strengthening the cooperation between the cities involved.
SB: During the official visit to Brussels of Taleb Rifai last December, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), it has been agreed in light of the forthcoming International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development in 2017 and European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018, two major UNWTO/European Parliament events will be held in 2017. Has the European Parliament have also a specific plan for the 2017 Year?
IU: Yes we continue the job that has been started with the Tourism Task Force. We will have 3-4 sessions in the frame of the Transport and Tourism Committee on the most important topics on tourism, (accessibility and sustainability, digitalisation, visa issues). We are working on the implementation of the accepted projects. During the next year on behalf of the EU institutions we have the EU’s Blue Growth Agenda with special focus on the oceans and biodiversity and its tourism aspects. Among our visions in 2017 we steam ahead with the preparation for the EU-China Tourism Year 2018, in cooperation with the OBOR Committee, a platform gathering high level decision makers, diplomats, business representatives and tourism stakeholders from Europe and China.
SB: What is your wish for the 2017?
IU: Tourism is the industry of peace. The world is suffering from deficits, worst of all a deficit of understanding, as I learned from my mentor Taleb Rifai. The EU needs to take the lead to change that, tourism can be one of the most powerful policy to break down stereotypes. I wish more peace next year.