EUROPEAN TRAVEL POLICY, 23 July 2002

EUROPEAN TRAVEL POLICY – INSTANT NEWS ON TRAVEL POLICY IN EUROPE

SUSTAINABLE TOURISM CREEPING UP THE AGENDA

EUROPEAN TRAVEL POLICY, 23 July 2002

Yesterday’s announcement from the European Commission’s tourism unit that it had chosen sustainable tourism as one of the principal focuses of its first European Tourism Forum (see EUROPEAN TRAVEL POLICY of 22 July) is only one of many recent signals that sustainable tourism is making its way slowly but surely up the European and international agenda. Not only is 2002 the UN-designated international year of ecotourism – celebrated by the World Ecotourism Summit in Québec in May (see EUROPEAN TRAVEL POLICY, May 27) – but tourism will feature in the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development, to be held in Johannesburg summit gathering from 2 – 11 September 2002. And yesterday European Union foreign ministers agreed in Brussels on a major commitment to the WSSD, confirming plans set out by EU environment ministers at informal meeting on 19-21 July in Sønderborg, Denmark. The EU is determined to play an active role, including promoting the development of programmes for sustainable production and consumption which can allow for economic growth without leading to environmental degradation and abuse of resources.

There is no specific tourism component to the EU position for Johannesburg, but tourism will certainly be impacted by the general EU conviction that all policies should take greater account of sustainability – at home and abroad. Ministers agreed, for instance, that "further work is needed to improve the integration of environmental considerations into sectoral policies including transport…". And the European Commission is currently preparing a communication on assisting developing countries develop their potential to benefit from freer trade and contribute to sustainable development, including how they can take advantage of opportunities for trade and investment as part of their national development policies.

Meanwhile, a tourism industry report prepared specifically for Johannesburg, under the sponsorship of the United Nations Environment Programme, sets out some of the current efforts and future challenges from the perspective of tour operators, the hospitality sector and the cruise industry. "Without sustainable management, tourism loses its potential for growth", it insists, arguing for a more energetic engagement of all parties – private industry and the public sector, non-governmental organisations, trade unions and consumers – in converting political declarations into practical plans. Tourism can be a force for the preservation of a community’s natural and cultural heritage, or it can be a threat to it, it states unambiguously.

The industry bodies behind the document – "Industry as partners for sustainable development in tourism" – are the World Travel & Tourism Council, the International Hotel & Restaurant Association, the International Federation of Tour Operators, and the International Council of Cruise Lines. And, being an industry report, it unapologetically presents an essentially optimistic assessment of what its members have been doing, even though it recognises that much remains to be done.

But as a gesture towards a new type of dialogue, it does summarise in an annexe some of the more critical or sceptical views it encountered from other bodies in the course of preparing its report – including dissatisfaction among non-governmental organisations over how fully the impact of tourism has been evaluated in developing countries, or concerns over human rights, labour rights, water rights, religious rights, child labour and indigenous people. It recognises there is disagreement as to whether tourism is a victim of the consequences of global warming or a contributor to it, and admits that " the question of transparency and monitoring of the tourism industry’s activities is still open and needs to be further addressed".

While claiming a "leadership" role for the tourism industry in the debates on sustainable tourism, the report does try to move beyond the mutual recrimination that has often characterised the exchanges so far: "It is now time for everyone to share in the responsibility of maintaining and sustaining the natural resources essential to tourism’s very existence, instead of each stakeholder blaming the other", it urges.

The report also recognises that there are no easy solutions. Despite the boom in eco-tourism – which contributed $154 billion to world tourism receipts in 2000 and is growing 20% annually compared with just 7% for tourism overall, "eco-tourism alone is not the answer to addressing the environmental problems facing the industry", it candidly admits. And although it lists many of the voluntary industry initiatives to boost sustainable tourism, it also concedes that adoption such schemes by the industry "is as yet limited", and "it has proved particularly difficult to encourage smaller firms to participate in sustainable good practice". So far eco-labels lack global credibility, it acknowledges. And the fragmentation of the industry and the high proportion of smaller firms has led to " unconstructive training" and limited protection for employees, it says.

The report’s starting point is an acknowledgement of the need to preserve the world’s assets for future generations – a need that must be met by travel and tourism as by all other industries that use the natural resources, it says: "The preservation of the tourism product – the environmental, social or cultural heritage specific to each country – is the only way to ensure a future for everyone". And it speaks of the need to "evolve new patterns of managing travel and tourism businesses in a more systematic and dynamic way". It reflects on the possibility for the travel and tourism industry "to confirm itself as a solution, rather than a contributor to the economical, social and environmental challenges facing the future."

Among the economic, social and environmental achievements by the sector it remarks on the contribution tourism has made to boosting national economies – in Europe it cites the cases of the Balearics and of Turkey – and of generating employment. It records the adoption of "corporate citizenship" programmes – involving dialogue between the private sector and the community – by multinationals such as Lusotur, British Airways and Preussag. The Accor Group undertakes not to oppose efforts to unionise its employees and considers respect for union rights to be part of the good reputation of its brand names, it notes. The Warsaw Marriott has worked since 1994 to promote HIV/AIDS awareness among its staff and to support those living with the disease. TUI and Scandinavian Leisure Group already track the environmental performance of destinations and sub-contracted suppliers. Many of the examples are drawn from developing countries, but European examples cited include the Green Key certification scheme run by the Danish hotel, restaurant and leisure industry association, HORESTA, using 78 criteria for properties seeking certification. Independent hotels such as the Hotel Victoria in Freiburg regularly communicate quantified data on the hotel’s environment performance to guests. And Radisson SAS has supported restoration and enhancement projects for UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Krakow

The report’s recommendations cover a wide range. "The sector should foster tourism investment through public-private sector partnerships that not only enable a country to grow economically, but retain the essential social, cultural and environmental assets that make each country a unique product" , it says. Tour operators can source and use brochures more efficiently, and encourage clients to make choices and to behave in ways that are socially and environmentally acceptable. And they can influence public and private sector actors in the destinations, including by applying and monitoring environmental standards on sub-contracted suppliers, against agreed international criteria. In the hospitality sector, it believes that self-regulation is "the most viable course of action", through in-house environmental audits of efficient and environmentally-sensible use of resources such as energy and water, or the adoption of environmental management systems, improved management of waste, or by participating in eco-certification schemes. Private sector companies need to commit to place sustainable development issues at the core of the management structure, and apply certification criteria to industry initiatives, it says. They should exploit new cleaner technologies, and increase training. And mechanisms are needed to support the adoption of sustainable good practices by smaller firms.

Ultimately, however, the report recognises that it is for individual countries and destinations to determine what role tourism should play in their community and what policies they want to follow. "Attempts by outsiders (such as tour operators or non-governmental organisations) to create solutions based on ‘western criteria’ are almost certain to fail", it warns.

GENERAL MOTORS BID FOR DAEWOO GETS EU OK

EUROPEAN TRAVEL POLICY, 23 July 2002

The European Commission has authorised the acquisition by General Motors Corporation of Daewoo Motor Company’s manufacture and supply of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles. Production facilities in Korea and Vietnam, and nine overseas sales subsidiaries in Europe (in Austria, the Benelux region, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland), are covered by the deal. The Commission says the operation will have no anti-competitive impact either in the manufacture and supply or in the wholesale and retail distribution of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles, given the number of other strong competitors in the European market.

EU BACKS AERONAUTICS RESEARCH AGENDA

EUROPEAN TRAVEL POLICY, 23 July 2002

The European Commission today welcomed the initial findings of the Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe, which has called for a new strategic research agenda for the sector. Speaking from the Farnborough International Air Show in the UK, European Research Commissioner Busquin said: "I welcome the findings. They are consistent with our 2020 vision for aeronautics and the STAR 21 report ("Strategic Aerospace Review for the 21st Century") released last week. All agree on the need to step up research in this sector. The success of our aeronautics industry today depends on research investments made 15 years ago. Unless we invest more in R&D today and adopt a consistent approach at EU level, we compromise the sector’s future. In a global and highly competitive market, European enterprises cannot be successful without joining forces with the EU and member states. Building on a vision for aeronautics in the 21st Century, we can avoid duplication and waste of resources, and pool forces to reach a critical mass at the European level." The EU’s upcoming research programme for 2002-2006 will allocate Euro 1.07 billion to aerospace-related research.

ACARE has called for a consistent and co-ordinated R&D drive at national and EU level, in both public and private sectors, with integrated technological platforms, large scale research test-beds, joint trans-national R&D projects and schemes to nurture bright ideas and foster innovation and technology transfer. It wants an ad-hoc forum with member states to improve research infrastructures, and an aeronautics contact point information network to help make the most of EU know-how in this field. New technologies should be validated through a EU-wide certification system, and ACARE also recommends upgrading skills and human resources in this sector, for instance by fostering mobility of researchers and life-long training.

GREECE BEFORE EU COURT FOR ITS TAX ON PLEASURE CRAFT

EUROPEAN TRAVEL POLICY, 23 July 2002

The European Commission has decided to take Greece to the Court of Justice because it imposes a special tax on pleasure craft entering Greek territorial waters. The Commission says this is a tax equivalent to import duties – in conflict with fundamental EU rules. And it says the adjustments which Greece made after the Commission formally asked it in July last year to change its legislation are insufficient. Since 1999 private pleasure craft of more than 7 metres entering Greek territorial waters and which have no permanent mooring in a Greek port have to pay the tax each time they approach a Greek port, harbour or coast. As it is levied upon the crossing of a territorial line and does not relate to a service rendered to the person paying it, this tax breaches the EU Treaty, the Commission says. So it is taking legal action against Greece.

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