EU: Concern for people should be top of agenda for tourism – commission

The president of the European Travel Commission, Luís Araújo, argued on Friday that the concern for tourists, residents and workers should be at the centre of the work for the future of tourism, which wants to be sustainable.

“The more resilient we are, the more sustainable we will be, but we have to put people at the centre of our work,” said the President of Portugal’s Tourism Board, who was taking part in the High Level Forum on Sustainability and Tourism, promoted as part of the Portuguese presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Luís Araújo also highlighted the need to increase the sector’s resilience, so that it can play an even greater role in the economies of European Union (EU) countries, but for that to happen, funds must be made available to increase its competitiveness.

The Secretary General of the European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions (EFFAT), Kristjan Bragason, also stressed the urgency of improving the conditions of tourism workers, particularly by increasing wages.

“We need to ensure that stakeholders in the tourism sector are involved in any agenda for the future of the sector. Let’s not make the same mistakes as in the past, listen to the workers too”, urged Kristjan Bragason.

During the forum, three panel discussions took place on the qualification of workers in the sector, digital transformation and the environment.

Those panels were attended by representatives of several relevant entities in the tourism sector, to share ideas and present proposals to be discussed during the meeting of EU Tourism Ministers, which has the ambition to reach a commitment among all member states for an Agenda for Tourism 2030-2050.

For Silvia Barbone, from the Next Tourism Generation Aliance, it is necessary to focus on the education of workers at local level, not only at the level of technical skills required by digital transformation.

“It is also a question of creating the right attitude. Digital, but with a human touch. We are an industry of people, so this human touch is always better”.

Regarding the recently approved green digital certificate for international travel, the President of the European Committee of the Regions, Apóstolos Tzitzikostas, considered it was “a step taken in the right direction”.

“Europeans want to travel, but they want to feel confident and safe. […] As well as being the third largest socio-economic activity in the European Union, tourism is also part of the European way of life and contributes to the creation of a common European identity,” he added.

In the high-level panel discussion, the Secretary of State for Tourism, Rita Marques, reiterated the need to involve all member states in the commitment to an agenda for tourism for 2030-2050, where all lines of action and joint plans with predefined metrics are defined.

However, for a transformation of the tourism sector, funds must be made available to operators. “Our ambition is huge, but we must have the means in place for its execution,” she pointed out.