The United Nations World Travel Organisation (UNWTO) has welcomed European Union efforts to bolster socially responsible tourism across the continent.
Recent developments in the EU have seen the body acknowledging tourism’s significance to Europe’s socio-economic growth and were welcomed by UNWTO secretary-general Taleb Rifai at the European Tourism Stakeholders Conference.
“This conference takes place at an historical moment,” said Mr. Rifai.
“With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU has for the first time the competence to carry out actions to support, coordinate and supplement the actions of the member states in the area of tourism.”
With tourism higher on the agenda of the European institutions, Spain has made the promotion of a European model of socially responsible tourism one of the priorities of its six-month Presidency of the EU.
Held in the framework of the Spanish Presidency of the EU, the conference Towards a Socially Responsible European Tourism Model debated how to best develop a more competitive, sustainable and socially responsible European tourism sector in the light of recent economic and institutional developments within the EU.
This move was applauded by Mr. Rifai who underscored the difficulties of mainstreaming an industry still as fragmented as tourism and commended EU efforts in this respect.
“The EU has become an example to the world by recognizing tourism’s critical role in generating growth and jobs,” he said.
Tourism is a key sector of the European economy and currently generates directly and indirectly more than ten per cent of the EU’s GDP and around 12 per cent of all jobs.
Against this background, the institutional changes resulting from the Lisbon Treaty represent a unique opportunity for a renewed and consolidated EU tourism policy framework.
“As proven by the recent crisis, global challenges require global solutions and increased cooperation.
“With this new framework, the European tourism sector will be better prepared to face current and future challenges and UNWTO stands ready to work closely with the EU to make of tourism a key contributor to achieving the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy for Smart, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth.,” concluded Mr. Rifai.
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