EUROPEAN TRAVEL POLICY, 28 August 2002

EUROPEAN TRAVEL POLICY – INSTANT NEWS ON TRAVEL POLICY IN EUROPE

EUROPEAN FLOODS PROVOKE REACTIONS IN TRAVEL AND TRANSPORT SECTOR

EUROPEAN TRAVEL POLICY, 28 August 2002

European hoteliers are worried about the impact the floods in central Europe on their sector. According to Hotrec, representing hotels, restaurants and cafés in Europe, there is particular reason to worry about Austria, Germany, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Here the floods have hit the tourism industry hard, it says, and in particular the hospitality sector. There has been severe damage, and tourists are now avoiding the affected areas: as a result, many firms have closed or dismissed staff. "Their economic situation is disastrous", says the trade association.

The President of Hotrec, Niels Nygaard, said: "We are very concerned about the economic survival of a great number of small businesses and about their employees. We are grateful to the European institutions for their decision to assist the affected regions and insist that the dramatic situation of the tourism sector, consisting mainly of small enterprises, be particularly taken into consideration within the emergency assistance scheme."

However, the plan announced today by the European Commission President Romano Prodi – for short-term reconstruction aid of up to Euro 500 million, and a longer-term disaster relief fund with up to Euro 1 billion per year – has not pleased everyone in the travel and transport sector. T&E, the transport and environment lobby group in Europe, accused the Commission of "missing the boat on preventing future floods".

T&E said the EU plan to reallocate substantial funds to rebuild destroyed transport infrastructure in flood-affected regions in Europe may indeed provide aid for the flooded cities and towns in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic, but "it misses a unique opportunity to prevent such disasters from happening again."

"Rebuilding existing road transport infrastructure and repairing dikes and flood barriers will help now, but they won’t prevent floods from happening again," said T&E Director Beatrice Schell. "In fact they will worsen the situation over the longer term. This is because the relief fund runs the risk of repeating past mistakes and threatens to re-establish the problematic preconditions that lead to the floods." The negative environmental impacts of transportation have to be addressed, she insisted. "Apart from contributing to global warming the transport sector is among the driving forces that induce floods through continuous land take and a reckless extension of inland waterways."

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