Jlag had the pleasure to interview Mr. Carlo Fidanza, Member of the European Parliament and former Rapporteur of the European Tourism Strategy. Mr. Carlo Fidanza talked with us about the new European Tourism Task Force, Structural funds and the new funding programme COSME.
– The European Tourism Task Force, recently created by the European Parliament, seems to be a very promising step forward for the European tourism. Which is its main role? Which are the main objectives and activities?
The main role of the EP Tourism Task Force is to implement the new European tourism strategy approved by the EP last autumn, by making proposals of activities and increase the level of participation of the different key players.
Due to the extension of the report and the several themes included, the EP Tourism Task Force is currently defining priorities for the rest of 2012 and for 2013. For each priority the EP Tourism Task Force selected a series of specific activities in line with the issue tackled.
– The next European Tourism Day will focus on seasonality and maritime tourism, which are the main EU actions regarding these issues? Is the European Tourism Day developing a positive impact in terms of tourism stakeholders’ participation?
The European Tourism Day is growing, year after year, as a key event among the stakeholders of the sector. Combating seasonality is one of our priorities. It is impossible, especially in a period of crisis, to guarantee continuity to enterprises working few weeks in a year. We must create a new tool after Calypso preparatory action, improve exchanges with BRIC countries (Brasil, Russia, India, China) during the low season, increasing private investments in the field of accessibility to allow many people with different needs to travel all the year.
In this regard, maritime tourism has a key role to play as one of the most important offers in the low season. The EU has to put pressure on the Member States and regional authorities to increase the level of natural landscape conservation nevertheless to protect seashores from erosion and soil degradation.
– Structural funds represent a very important resource for tourism destinations. Nevertheless, local authorities seem to be completely lost in planning and using them in a very effective way. Which recommendations would you suggest to policy makers in order to use the structural funds as a concrete opportunity for territorial development? How do public authorities should design, plan and implement structural funding? Why is there so little knowledge among local authorities in relation to the use and the scope of structural funding?
Part of the problem could be solved with more visible and adequate information about how these funds can be used, their benefits, and how to apply. But often the problem is that resources formally addressed to tourism are used for many other purposes, with a very few added value for tourism itself. The EP Tourism Task Force could support a better knowledge of the structural funds by analyzing the problem, discussing with the key players, proposing actions and exchanging best practices. It is therefore crucial to act now in order to put pressure on the Institutions to include tourism among the priorities to be financed through the new multi-annual financial period but also in the new regulation about the use of structural funds.
– Which are the main challenges for the EU in the tourism sector for the next multiannual financial framework 2014-2020? Which opportunities are offered to local authorities? Which ones to SMEs?
Thanks also to the own-initiative report of the European Parliament of September 2011 and the pressure made to establish a specific budgetary line on tourism within the multi-annual financial framework 2014-2020, the EC has proposed a new program called “COSME” (for the competitiveness of small and medium enterprises). This financial tool is addressed to small and medium enterprises and, according to the original proposal of the European Commission, it should support specific projects in the field of tourism too. There is a strong opposition in order to delete the reference to tourism in the text. This is not acceptable given the important impact of the sector in the economies of the Member States. Therefore, it is necessary to put pressure on the various committees concerned at the level of the European Parliament, as well as on the Council. The European Parliament Tourism Task Force could be of help in this respect.
– Which advice would you give to young people interested in working within the tourism sector?
The education and continuous professional training are important factors to be successful in the field of tourism. To develop a natural curiosity for other cultures, for travels and other languages is also central and could provide young people with the right tools to start working in tourism. The tourism sector needs new professional figures at the management level, which could bring an added value and increase the quality of the tourism offer in Europe, notably through young workers well oriented in using technologies and speaking different languages, with a special attention to the growing markets and a focus on quality and attention to customers needs.