Exclusive Vision interview: Gordon Sillence, a real European insider peels open the new EU directive to show big sustainable tourism opportunities.
The New European Commission´s Tourism Communication 2010 – Europe, the world’s No 1 tourist destination – a new political framework for tourism in Europe has been set out.
It seems that it takes four years for a new head of Unit in the EU DG Enterprise to bed down into the vast subject of managing the European Tourism Juggernaut, which just leaves them 1 year to deliver something meaningful. Yet each time a new Commissioner is appointed then a policy change statement is sure to follow before the ink dries in the overworked copiers in the endless corridors of bureaucratic Brussels.
Coincidently, the appointment of Commissioner Antonio Tajani as European Commission Vice-President and Commissioner in charge of Industry and Entrepreneurship in February 2010 and the exit of Franco Ianiello as Head of Tourism Unit this June has produced a new Communication from the Commission that is a milestone document in European Tourism.
Europe, the world’s No 1 tourist destination – a new political framework for tourism in Europe is in fact a very perceptive document, taking the Commission back into a cutting edge role in supporting European tourism not seen since previous Head of Unit Reinhart Klein took policy on European tourism to a new level before his departure in 2003 with the Communication Basic Orientations for the Sustainability of European Tourism ( COM/2003/0716 ).
This Communication has probably escaped the attention of the majority of tourism stakeholders as the Commission slipped into virtual market irrelevance under the former regime. The ineffectiveness of the Commission in leading the tourism sustainability debate in the last five years may now be over, with the appointment of a new Head of Unit due this September, matched by a well-targeted networking support programme aimed at strengthening European knowledge networking at the regional level to develop competitive and sustainable tourism clusters.
The new Communication manages to pull together a decade of tourism policy making, keeping economic competitiveness as the key policy objective whilst ensuring that tourism stakeholders achieve this sustainably, using the knowledge economy as its springboard for environmentally and socially responsible innovative commercial actions in international markets.
This all falls in line with the fact that tourism is now an explicit part of the newly framed Lisbon Treaty, given the Commission the opportunity to step more boldly into the formation of national policies and market places. The Treaty of Lisbon creates a new legal basis entirely devoted to tourism, with a specific article on tourism specifying that the EU shall complement the action of the Member States in the tourism sector, in particular by promoting the competitiveness of Union undertakings, aiming to reinforce the EU as the foremost tourist destination of the world.
Much of the new agenda owes itself to the successful policy inputs made by the Ecotrans Network on Sustainable Tourism Development, who have had more than half a dozen of its members contributing directly to policy formation this decade. In particular Dr Richard Denman of the Tourism Company UK has steered the Commission´s Tourism Sustainability Group through the difficulties of implementing the 2003 Communication that had been prepared by Gordon Sillence, a former Tourism Unit staff member, now working on the EEA´s DestiNet Sustainable Tourism Portal.
“Its worth reading the new Communication to see how European tourism stakeholders need to organize themselves if they want to deliver globally competitive and internationally visible sustainable products and services.” says Gordon Sillence. “Ecotrans has been working at the cutting edge of policy relevant research for bringing the IT based knowledge economy to the European tourism market place for the purpose of sustainable tourism development. Good policy-making is a two way street – the Commission needs to know what´s happening at the regional level in order to provide coherent European governance, and regional administrators, entrepreneurs and tourists themselves need to understand the overview that only the Commission has of the vast European tourism tapestry if they wish to manage destinations and develop enterprises in a sustainable manner in the face of global change.”
Vision on Sustainable Tourism will be conducting a full interview with Gordon Sillence on the European tourism policy as part of its forthcoming masterclass .
Writer, Valere Tjolle
This article is uploaded by Majbritt Thomsen, administrator on ‘Views On Tourism’