A conversation with Ms. Francesca Tudini, Head of the Tourism Unit at the European Commission, and Mrs. Iuliana Aluas, Policy Officer

The ratification and implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon has brought about an increased role for the European Commission within the area of tourism. We would be very pleased to know more about your Unit. Which is its main role? Which are the main objectives and activities? Which are the main interdependencies with other EC Units and the European Parliament?

“Since 2010, I am the Head of the Tourism Policy Unit which has as a main role to ensure the proper foundations for the European tourism policy, stressing those factors which determine its competitiveness, while taking account of the need for sustainable development”, Ms. Tudini says. “The European Commission’s mission in tourism is in fact clearly delineated by the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. This mission is to support, coordinate and complement action by the Member States in the tourism field, amongst others, by promoting the competitiveness of undertakings in this sector and creating an environment conducive to their development. This is best done by encouraging cooperation between the Member States, particularly through the exchange of good practice, encouraging partnerships at all levels across the sector and incentivising pan-European and transnational tourism joint ventures and initiatives. All these, on the background of an integrated approach to tourism which ensures that the sector is taken into account in other EU policies. As you can imagine, there is a big work to be done but luckily enough I have a small but brilliant team and I can count on excellent colleagues, like Iulia who is one of the strong assets of our group.”

Mrs. Aluas explains that the “Tourism Policy Unit is not the only one to deal with the EU tourism policy. The Commission’s tourism policy team has been in fact formally enlarged since October 2012 with a second Unit Tourism and Cultural Instruments. We are practically working in team and endeavour to promote the competitiveness and sustainability of European tourism through our various pan-European and transnational policy initiatives, to ensure that Commission policies and initiatives take into account the competitiveness and the sustainability of Europe’s tourism, to co-operate with the EU Member States, to promote and encourage collaboration with and amongst all European tourism stakeholders, and last but not least, to enhance the understanding and visibility of EU tourism.

Our activities are very diverse, mirroring the diversity and complexity of such a cross-cutting sector as tourism. In a nutshell, I could say that, since 2010, we have focused our efforts on implementing the Commission Communication “Europe, the world’s No 1 tourist destination – a new political framework for tourism in Europe”, the interviewers remark. “Our activities therefore are concentrated around the four priority axes of this Communication, namely: stimulating competitiveness in the European tourism sector, promoting the development of sustainable, responsible and high-quality tourism, consolidating the image and profile of Europe as a collection of sustainable and high-quality destinations, and last but not least, maximising the potential of EU policies and financial instruments for developing tourism.

This last priority axis is very important for us, because tourism is a complex and cross-cutting sector. A large number of other European policies have a direct or indirect impact on tourism, to mention only, policies such as, transport, taxation, consumer protection, environment, employment and training, culture or regional and rural development, etc. Therefore, the Commission tourism team regularly cooperates with other Commission services to ensure that the interests and needs of the tourism industry are fully taken into account when formulating and implementing its policies.

We also have a regular contact and cooperate with the European Parliament, in particular, through its Transport and Tourism Committee, as well as via the newly established EP Tourism Task Force”.

 

• Which are the main 2013 challenges and priorities for the European tourism?

“In 2013, we will continue implementing our 2010 Tourism Communication. Our initiatives will be primarily focused on increasing tourism demand, within the EU and from third markets, and on improving tourism supply by facilitating the diversification of tourism products and by enhancing the quality of tourism services.
As our Vice-President Tajani has repeatedly underlined, we are convinced that encouraging more travel within the EU, as well as to the EU from third countries, represents a viable alternative to stimulate growth and job creation. Therefore, in 2013, we will take a number of actions to achieve this. We will propose measures to support off-season tourism within the EU. The goal is that more people travel throughout the year and that hotels stay open for longer periods. Also, jobs and additional opportunities for many tourist destinations will be created. We will also pay particular attention to senior citizens’ travel. This is an untapped market potential. We will continue with the implementation of the 50,000 tourists initiative that our Vice-President launched in June 2011. This initiative aims at encouraging tourism flows in the low season between EU Member States and Latin America. Based on the results of the pilot phase, which started in October 2012 with Brazil, Chile and Argentina, we will investigate possibilities to enlarge the initiative to other countries.

Further to this, in 2013, we will invest our efforts in contributing to and facilitating the diversification of tourism destinations and products and enhancing the quality of services. Our main challenge in this regard will be the future establishment of the European Tourism Label for Quality Schemes, which will aim at improving consistency between existing quality schemes by proposing an umbrella quality label that recognises both what has already been in place (be it by public or private stakeholders) and possible future quality schemes. This initiative should contribute to increasing the transparency and consistency of quality evaluation at EU level by providing businesses with a management tool, facilitating the choice of consumers and (indirectly) raising consumer confidence.

We will also dedicate important efforts to improving accessibility in the tourism sector as well as to facilitating a better ICT and innovation uptake by tourism enterprises, amongst others, by setting up an ICT and Tourism platform which will assist SMEs in business processes and help them become fully integrated international business partners.

Last but not least, we will deploy various initiatives aimed at ensuring that people are trained to get the skills that the tourism industry will need in the future and that industry can find the right people with the right skills, all over the EU”.

• You are the first women we interview for Tourism Around Europe. Do you think “boardroom quotas” for women is an issue within the tourism sector?

“I personally think that, in what concerns gender employment, tourism is an important sector for women”, Ms. Francesca Tudini affirms.

“The percentage of women in tourism employment is generally higher than in other sectors. However, just like in many other sectors, women are much more likely to be employed on a part time basis, and possibly being paid less than men are.

As for the issue of “boardroom quotas”, we think that, over time, the situation has substantially improved in tourism, even if there is still more than enough scope to increase women’s leadership in the sector and progressively abolish the situations where lower levels and occupations with few career development opportunities are dominated by women”.  

“And with regards to our Unit, maybe the problem is for men. Out of 18 people, 14 are women. Isn’t it a good starting point?”, both interlocutors assert.

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