The world economic crisis: Impact on tourism
Publication date: 24 February 2009
The world economic crisis: Consequences on tourism
The Tourism Intergroup, chaired by MEP Margie Sudre (EPP-ED, FR), this week held a meeting to discuss the impact of the economic crisis on the tourism industry. Industry speakers included Georges Colson, President of the French travel agents association, Marguerite Sequaris, Secretary General of HOTREC and Mr Harald Wiedenhofer, Secretary General of EFAT (the European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism sector). The commission was represented by Ms Aluas, Policy officer in DG Enterprise who replaced commissioner Almunia who could not be present.
Aluas, Policy officer in the commission and Task Manager of the preparatory action “European Destinations of Excellence”, opened the debate on behalf of the commission saying that the crisis has had an impact on many sectors including the tourism sector. She noted however that the impact has been different across the member states. Austria and Slovenia have both experienced positive growth in the sector during 2008 whereas Northern European member states have suffered, principally as a result of the poor exchange rates for the $ and £.
In order to gauge the changing habits of consumers the commission has launched a Eurobarometer survey on this in January 2009. The first report should be ready in July 2009. Preparatory actions to help with the creation of employment and encouraging tourism out of season have already been started by the commission. Sequaris of HOTREC gave a presentation on the affects of the crisis on the hospitality industry. The presentation can be found attached. Wiedenhofer then spoke on behalf of his federation. He said that his federation shares a similar agenda to HOTREC. He called on firms not to react to quickly to the crisis. The danger is that skilled and experienced workers will be laid off. The key challenge and common goal across the industry should be to bridge the critical period and keep as many people as possible. Tools such as flexible use of holiday time should be used. Training should also be provided to people during temporary periods of employment.
This period will be easier for larger companies but SMEs will suffer and there are differences between member states as far as the degree of damage that will be felt. He finished his intervention by again stressing the harm that a cautious attitude could cause at this time. Sudre intervened and stressed the need for solidarity across the tourism industry. Colson spoke on behalf of the Association of French Travel Agents. He painted a far gloomier picture than previous speakers. He said that consumers are no longer active and action needs to be taken quickly to counteract the negative effects of the crisis. He also said he was concerned about the effect that the implementation of the Services Directive was going to have on the industry in France. Medina Ortega MEP (PES, ES) gave the example of a successful initiative which was implemented in Spain to deal with the problems that the tourism industry suffers during low season. He said that older people were given the possibility to travel at low rates during off-peak times and there was some government funding for the scheme. It has been a great success, he said.
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Source: EP Tourism Intergroup Meeting