In addition to Covid-19, the European Union must be prepared to address long-term challenges related to green and digital transformation, competitiveness, sustainability, and resilience, said a European Court of Auditors report published recently recommending that a new European tourism strategy be drawn up.
The report notes that though some tourism-related projects financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) had a positive impact, were sustainable and contributed to fostering tourism activity in the region, other projects were delayed or over budget and not targeted correctly reducing their impact.
In view of the findings, the auditors recommend the Commission formulate a new EU tourism strategy and encourage member states to apply selection procedures for ERDF-funded tourism investments.
It should be noted that the EU has a supportive role in tourism policy, backing and coordinating actions taken by member states. There was no dedicated EU budget for tourism in the 2014-2020 period. The Commission defined the EU’s current tourism strategy in 2010 and will continue to financially support tourism through EU programs for the 2021-2027 period.
In response to the dramatic impact of Covid-19 on the EU’s tourism sector, the Commission put forward measures and proposals to mitigate the effects of the crisis and initiated action aimed at setting a tourism agenda for 2030.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the EU’s tourism sector: tourism flows and tourism revenue fell sharply,” said Pietro Russo, a member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the report.
“But this immediate shock is not the only challenge facing the EU’s tourism sector. It needs to face up to other, more long-term challenges related to its green and digital transformation, its competitiveness, its sustainability, and its resilience.”
According to the report’s findings, key problem areas concerned projects that received funding but were isolated from other tourism infrastructure; poor or no efforts to market projects effectively; funded infrastructure was used mainly by the local community not by visitors.
EU Tourism in Numbers
According to the report:
– the EU is the world’s most visited region welcoming in pre-pandemic 2019 around 539 million international arrivals
– approximately 37 percent of all international tourist arrivals had the EU as their destination in 2019
– in 2019, international tourism revenue in the EU came to 383 billion euros or 28.9 percent of global tourism revenue
– tourism is a key economic sector in the EU: in 2019, it accounted for 9.9 percent of the EU’s gross domestic product and 11.6 percent of all EU jobs
– four EU members: France, Spain Italy and Germany are among the top 10 countries in the world in terms of international tourism arrivals and revenue.