Connecting SMEs for a green economy

Agreement on the establishment of regional investment platforms for tourism-related SMEs

World Tourism Day: Europe's local leaders call for a European strategy to boost the tourism sector

The Commission for natural resources (NAT) of the European Committee of the Regions has today adopted an opinion on tourism by Hanspeter Wagner. Tourism plays a major role in the development of many European regions and cities, representing over 10% of the EU GDP and 12% of total employment. Local leaders call for concrete action to support EU tourist destinations in order to maximize the sector's contribution to growth and jobs. The opinion urges the European Commission to come up with a European strategy for tourism, set up regional tourism-related EFSI investment platforms, cut excessive red tape for SMEs, launch a European qualification offensive, as well as to boost regional and cross-border cooperation in tourism and to use it as a force for promoting European Citizenship.

Ahead of the adoption of the opinion, Rapporteur Wagner (Mayor of the Municipality of Breitenwang, Tyrol, AT/EPP) met with Commission Vice President Katainen to introduce the flagship proposal of his report: the joint establishment of a Europe-wide investment platform for SMEs working in the tourism sector by the European Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB) with the support of the European Committee of the Regions. The Rapporteur suggests carrying out five pilot projects in model regions by 2018.

Mr. Wagner stated that "we have to make Europe aware that tourism is not a sideline issue. Tourism is for many regions and cities a key sector to secure economic and social stability. It is time that we act to support this sector. We need a bold and outspoken EU policy supporting the thousands of SMEs in tourism. This is why we urge the European Commission to present a multi-annual strategy and propose setting up a Europe-wide investment platform for SMEs working in the sector".

Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, said: "I thank the Committee of the Regions for this valuable contribution to the Investment Plan and I look forward to examining the opinion in detail. The regions play a crucial role in implementing the Investment Plan on the ground. The European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) in particular allows for the grouping of smaller projects in order to access financing. The tourism sector could benefit from the Plan in this way".

The opinion also discusses the challenges faced by SMEs as a result of the regulatory framework. The European Committee of the Regions calls on the European Commission - as part of the Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT) - to revise a number of directives, including the directive on working time and the framework directive on water, in order to better reflect the needs of tourism infrastructures.

"The opinion of the CdR highlights everything that the tourism industry could achieve in the regions, as well as in local communities. The European Parliament is a strong alliance for helping tourism policy to reach the political level it deserves. The European Capital of Tourism proposal included in this opinion will help the local cities and communities to increase their awareness about its activities in relation to tourism" said István Ujhelyi (HG/PES), Member of the European Parliament and Chairman of the Tourism Task Force at the TRAN Committee.

To mark the occasion of World Tourism Day and in the presence of several Members of the European Parliament who are also Members of the European Parliament's task force for Tourism, the rapporteur presented a poster exhibition tracing the evolution of tourism marketing in Tyrol from the 1930s onwards.

The day before the vote, Mr Wagner's opinion was presented to the European Confederation of Local Intermediate Authorities (CEPLI) in the presence of the chair of the NAT commission, Francina Armengol i Socías (ES/PES) and the president of the CoR Markku Markkula, during a panel discussion on investment in tourism aimed at improving the competitiveness and attractiveness of the regions.

source: Committee of the Regions