Proposal of the social partners to the II European Forum on Tourism, Abano Terme 27 November 2003


PROPOSAL OF THE SOCIAL PARTNERS TO THE II EUROPEAN FORUM ON TOURISM

Abano Terme 27 November 2003





1. International and European Scenario

2. Development of a Sustainable Tourism

3. Role of Tourism and Harmonization in the EU

4. Importance of Social Dialogue

5. Human Resources

6. Information/Communication



PROPOSAL OF THE SOCIAL PARTNERS TO THE II EUROPEAN FORUM ON TOURISM

The II European Forum on Tourism can constitute the beginning of an in-depth reflection on the great potential of the sector and the limits to be surmounted. Even outside the Forum’s agenda, the relevant organisations must grasp this opportunity to set up a European policy for tourism. They must forcefully and unanimously request that tourism be inserted among the Treaty subjects so they can all pursue common objectives, supported by interventions and resources, albeit respecting national specificities.

Many of the topics proposed today had already been covered during the I Forum (10 December 2002), signifying that more reflection is needed if we want to make real progress. In particular, the social dialogue between partners and the establishment of quality and ecological standards must be highlighted, as well as the enterprises’ commitment for social responsibility and the importance of new technologies, training and job creation in the sector.

It is thus necessary to define the priorities in constructing a European programme for the sector and a Europewide tourism policy is a priority for each of the partners and for the Union as a whole. In this sense, the present document wants to represent a point of departure, agreed by all the stakeholders in the different segments of the tourism supply, for setting up a European policy, with strategies, proposals and tools.

We must therefore strive even harder to have this subject included in the Treaties, considering the importance of the sector for the resources it moves and for its contribution in terms of demand for labour, in line with what emerged from the Crete meeting last May. Two plans should be prepared: one for inserting tourism in the draft of the Convention or, alternatively, for confirming the status quo laid down in the EU Treaty. Since the failure to achieve either of these aims could nullify any prospect for constructing a common legal base for a European tourism policy, all the social partners must support the assertion of the Government programme for the Italian Semester: “ The Italian Presidency intends to give continuity and substance to the policy of raising the profile of tourism as a sector of major Community interest by improving coordination and cooperation at EU level ”.

At a time when the economy is sluggish and there is a real risk that jobs will be cut back in many industrial sectors, it seems essential to promote and support what can be defined as a significant “production activity”, an important development factor.

The official recognition – formal, essential, regulatory and administrative – that the industry of tourism and hospitality comes under the heading of production activities also means giving the proper importance to protecting its representation and industrial relations.

Since the key themes proposed in the II Forum of November are the business impact assessment and the harmonization of taxation, it seems more important than ever to pay greater attention to the changes underway – and especially those triggered by recent problems and consequent restructuring – and more in general to the social and economic aspects of the sector. We are talking about human resources and occupational skills for maintaining a high quality of tourism services, the impact of the EU enlargement on the tourism sector and the capacity to extend the range of the supply. At the same time reflecting on the real meaning of “sustainable tourism”. We do not intend to propose a general debate, but rather to bear in mind these aspects during the II Forum, considering its strategic value for initiating changes coherent with the new scenarios that are being created.

1. International and European Scenario

Tourism should be interpreted as an "industry of peace". Besides fostering cultural exchange, knowledge, tolerance and social relations among populations – and not merely exploiting natural resources and people or deviant phenomena such as “sexual tourism” – it can constitute a source of development and income for emerging countries. Naturally, all this implies non-belligerent and peaceful conditions within the countries attracting tourist flows.
Many changes have occurred in the tourism system in recent years and even more in the last months. Despite the fall in presences caused by the dramatic events of September 11, the war in Iraq and the SARS epidemic, despites the weakness of the dollar against the euro, albeit recently compensated by a strengthening of the yen, the overall trend in the sector in our continent – with a high percentage based on movements inside the enlarged Europe – has been less negative than many stakeholders and observers predicted. A series of factors has led to this somewhat encouraging trend that has to be carefully analysed. It is now necessary to plan interventions that could further to remedy the situation and that anyway show that there are new needs to satisfy and foster.
It is also necessary to tap fully those elements that have contributed to the recent development of inter-European tourism, moving 350 million people (of which 119 million towards southern Europe) in 2001. In particular:

    • introduction of the euro;
    • implementation of the Shenghen Treaty that could in future be extended to other countries;
    • integration of transport systems, with an emphasis on the new big infrastructures on a European scale;
    • development of cultural relations;
    • interregional trade;
    • development of business networks.

Nor should the other 52 million tourists from the rest of the world be forgotten, who rank Europe first among destinations (for America they are almost 20) as well as the 7.4% increase in European tourism towards non-European countries (against the 3.9% of Europe-Europe trips), since this latter also involves local tour operators and/or European organisations who have invested in other countries.

A careful analysis of the demand, especially that appearing “different” and “innovative”, is thus essential to diversify the supply into the most appropriate forms and characterise it with quality elements. In a scenario in which the high economic level in Europe – relatively speaking – enables an increasing part of income to be dedicated to improving the quality of life and thus to tourism and recreation, diversifying the tourism supply means covering a wider range of users, without detriment to quality and specificity.

There are three aspects that the European Union has to analyse and on which a programme of interventions has to be established: the creation of a quality standard (and ecological standards, as suggested in the previous Forum), social dumping, the harmonization of taxation and the business impact assessment.

For the first aspect, the dissemination of information on the European tourism model (history, culture, climate, supply of high-quality services and other recreational offers for all age groups and for the disabled) should be developed in a context of integration and not competitiveness between the various Union countries. This also means opening up towards the southern Mediterranean, adding the attraction of “more exotic” destinations and lesser-known customs and traditions to the fascination of old Europe. This would strengthen the Barcelona Euro-Mediterranean partnership for constructing an area of stability and peace, essential for economic and social development.

The issue of so-called social dumping must also be tackled, bearing in mind the rightful claims for income from developing countries and the protection of the competitiveness of the European tourism industry, which also makes extensive use of non-EU workers, often with lower wages than European workers.

The harmonization of taxation among Member Countries and among the different segments that help to create a tourism system is fundamental for overcoming domestic competition, which can hold back and distort development in the sector on the international market. In particular, the dissemination of the euro reveals differences in prices of tourism products – the quantity and quality of the supply being equal – caused by the taxation schemes in the different Union countries.

2. Development of a Sustainable Tourism

With the programme drafted at the Johannesburg summit last year, the European Union started to promote the development of a sustainable tourism that respects the capacities of the various localities, too often overburdened with excessive tourism. It has summarised the fundamental challenges that have to be met in three, interconnected "pillars": business and economic success; environmental containment, preservation and development; responsibility for social and cultural values.

The EU has also highlighted the fundamental problems ensuing from this overburdening, including the seasonal concentration of flows, connected with an employment structure not always qualitatively equal to the demand, and the inadequate structure of transport models. The supply must use models more flexible to changes in demand (age groups, the disabled …) but able to influence it positively with specific policies for a greater respect of the environment and culture of the tourist destination, promoting the adoption of “good practices”, energy savings and forms of joint and responsible development.

The sustainability of the tourism system is underpinned by a complex series of factors involving the demand and supply, the various areas of responsibility and also the social, cultural and historic aspects of each context, where the “attention to” and “respect of” the tourist destination must be emphasised.

The Forum, which brings together economic players, workers, non-profit organisations and institutional representatives, is a great chance for defining a complex strategy that combines economic aspects with others no less important for a balanced development and growth of the system.

The intersectoral nature of the tourism sector is a fertile ground for launching a social dialogue in the Union that reconciles operators’ needs with those of the populations and the governments who want to preserve their own habitats. Summits like those of Rio and Johannesburg are undeniably useful on a global level and are opportunities to debate and formulate general principles. However, even the incorporation of these principles by the individual states is not enough, and for Europe it is necessary to cooperate with the economic and social forces, to think of more suitable regulations and principles for a widely urbanised territory, with an irreplaceable historic and cultural heritage.

3. Role of Tourism and Harmonization in the EU

It is still not certain that tourism will be inserted in the Treaties, despite the growing awareness of the role of tourism as a central component of cohesion. To support this approach we can cite the Mediterranean initiative, the central-European initiatives and those for the countries of the enlargement. The important political project of the enlargement of the European Union is a unique chance both for the Union and for the acceding countries to establish a durable peace, social justice and solidarity in the European continent. However all this needs political coordination and guidance to promote in the candidate countries a greater attention on consultation and social dialogue.

Fiscal and social harmonization can prevent unfair competition inside the European space and help to usher in the coordination of European initiatives and policies with an impact on tourism.

For the business impact assessment it must be highlighted – as will certainly be done during the Forum – how the European regulations affect the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the sector. Experience shows that the incorporation of regulations o For the business impact assessment it must be highlighted – as will certainly be done during the Forum – how the European regulations affect the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the sector. Experience shows that the incorporation of regulations or the adoption of new laws is complicated and too detailed for the SMEs. The quality of the legislation and its clarity, simplicity and coherence could be fostered by consulting the SMEs’ organisations before introducing new regulatory instruments; by constructing and disseminating indexes of impact to check their cumulative effects; by consulting the enterprises before introducing new practices; and by creating coherent criteria for administrative and legal procedures to access Union funds.

A European tourism promotion body, linked to an “Observatory for the Destination Europe” would provide – if suitably supported – a common point of reference for policies that would benefit all countries, including the most recent members. It would constitute not only a trilateral structure for supporting social dialogue but it could also follow up the Commission’s Communication of 23.6.99 (C 178/3) by offering an important cognitive tool for constructing and coordinating tourism policies with particular attention for employment topics, ranging from the new jobs to training systems and their harmonization, monitoring their evolution and the targets reached.

In addition, a closer relationship and agreements with the non-European Mediterranean countries, besides responding positively also in this sector to the needs of a Euro-Mediterranean partnership, would also enable a diversification of the tourist supply on both sides.

4. Importance of Social Dialogue

Unarguably, one of the particular features of the tourism sector – also because it is increasingly referred to as a system – is its multisectoral quality, constituting an advantage but also a limit if its management does not involve synergies and cooperation among its members to prevent additional costs, extra charges and obstructions.

The decision adopted during the I Forum of 2002 in Brussels to hold an annual meeting, already supported by the Council in its decision of May 2002, seems to place the accent on the strategic value of social dialogue inside the different segments of the system and among them. The same applies to the institutionalisation of the intersectoral dialogue.

A great effort in this direction, besides effectively promoting social cohesion, would also enable the following objectives to be pursued in each country and throughout the Union:

    • rationalisation of pathways, also on a voluntary basis, with positive effects on matters on the agenda of this II Forum;
    • combatting social dumping and the spread of irregular labour on the basis of the Barcelona principles, promoting a similar behaviour also in the countries where the big companies and European operators work, obviously adjusted to local income levels;
    • constructing a common European tourism policy recognisable for its quality, sustainability and for the culture it represents.

5. Human Resources

In Europe, albeit with significant exceptions, the sector is characterised by medium-small enterprises and this obviously has an impact on its capacity to tackle alone the problems of training and selecting its agents, starting with management. The seasonal nature of many tourist attractions makes employment less permanent and there is a frequent tendency to leave the sector, especially for the more qualified human resources.

The various problems that have affected the sector over the last two years have demonstrated that, albeit tourism enterprises are affected by external factors, mainly of an international origin, they also have a certain holding power. Despite this, there are preoccupations about the loss of competitiveness and market shares that must not be underestimated and weak points must be defined and a scale of priorities created for possible interventions.

Human resources undoubtedly rank high on this scale, with regards to both the gradual elimination of casual/irregular work and the general observance of collective contracts as well as basic vocational training and updating vis à vis the new competition, innovations and improvement of the quality of the supply.

In other words, it is necessary to steer and/or qualify better the choice of young people who would like to enter the sector, constructing an effective link between the educational system, specialised training and actual work. This entails a complex system that guides the new supply, of work and workers, towards the segments that most needs them, and that supports and updates workers for their whole working life, gradually providing them with relational and technical-operational skills in step with the innovative processes underway and with the demands of users.

Therefore we need a progressive harmonization of vocational qualifications, promoting the creation of sectoral framework agreements which, on a European level, define common guidelines on training to foster the free circulation of workers.

6. Information/Communication

In an era marked by the new communication means, practically in real time, a competitive edge is provided only by the quality of the product but also by the capacity to offer exhaustive and stimulating information to consumers. Information, that without distorting the reality, enables the greatest possible number of people to learn about the qualities of the various tourist destinations and services connected to them, with emphasis on the diversification of products and the possibility of constructing a "package" suited to their cultural, social and economic needs.

Information/communication also permits a greater transparency on the supply side, enabling the dissemination of good practices and development models in the sector that is in the interests of all European operators to foster. In the Council’s resolution of 2002 – to which the previous European Forum referred – there were many items devoted to this aspect, both as an invitation to the Member States to participate "on a voluntary basis in the exchange of information regarding the specific legislation …, the requisites established by the Member States …"; and as an invitation to the Commission to "make the best possible use of information and communication tech Information/communication also permits a greater transparency on the supply side, enabling the dissemination of good practices and development models in the sector that is in the interests of all European operators to foster. In the Council’s resolution of 2002 – to which the previous European Forum referred – there were many items devoted to this aspect, both as an invitation to the Member States to participate "on a voluntary basis in the exchange of information regarding the specific legislation …, the requisites established by the Member States …"; and as an invitation to the Commission to "make the best possible use of information and communication technologies …".

Abano Terme 27 November 2003