WRITTEN QUESTION by Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou (PPE-DE) to the Commission
Publication date: 22 April 2009
WRITTEN QUESTION by Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou (PPE‑DE) to the Commission
Subject: Fostering environmental awareness among European tourists and operators in the tourist industry by means of Community initiatives
The detrimental impact of tourism on the environment has now become apparent in the leading tourist destinations among the Member States but also worldwide. According to the latest UN data, only 10 % of the overall annual total of 800 000 000 tourists, i.e. 80 million, behave in an environmentally aware fashion during their holidays. The rest pollute the environment during their holidays to the level of a country with a population of 1 billion. All the activities associated with the tourist industry account for 5 % of climate change (figures for 2005). If tourism were a ‘country’, it would rank 5th in the world in terms of its contribution to the greenhouse effect(1). It would seem that businesses find the cost of complying with environmental standards intolerable, which is compounded by the effects of the economic crisis and the fact that tourist operators estimate that tourism in 2009 may be down by as much as 30 %.
In the light of this data and the gloomy forecasts for the future, how does the Commission intend to incorporate into its sustainable tourism strategy the environmental awareness of European tourists and operators in the tourist industry in order to protect the environment? What special initiatives will it take or what strategy will it promote to provide tourists and tourist enterprises with information about environmentally-friendly forms of recreation? Does it intend to take similar initiatives to the UN ‘Green Passport’ programme(2), an Internet guide to tourist behaviour? What are its views on possible cooperation with the UN or the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in this field? How can it provide financial support to enterprises in the sector in order to promote environmentally-friendly behaviour?
(1) ‘Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation in the Tourism Sector: Frameworks, Tools and Practices’, Sustainable Consumption & Production Branch, United Nations Environment Programme, Division of Technology, Industry, and Economics, UNEP 2008.
E-1306/09EN Answer given by Mr Verheugen on behalf of the Commission (15.4.2009)
The Commission is well aware of the complex links between the competitiveness of the tourism industry and the environment. While it is true that tourism inevitably has an environmental footprint, it is also true that the quality of the local environment is an increasingly important competitiveness factor. As an example, in a recent Flash-Eurobarometer Survey on "the attitudes of Europeans towards tourism" 31 % of respondents said, that the local environment has a major influence on their choice of a destination.
Already in February 2007, the Commission-sponsored Tourism Sustainability Group (TSG) issued a report on "Action for more sustainable European Tourism" which identifies mechanisms for encouraging the implementation of "sustainable destinations", "sustainable businesses" and "responsible tourists". According to these elements, the TSG will further elaborate its work, especially with regard to providing added value to the players on the ground. A representative of UNEP is participating actively in the work of the TSG.
Following the publication of the TSG report, the Commission adopted a communication on an "Agenda for a sustainable and competitive European tourism" (3) where it emphasized the need to develop and strengthen tourists' critical capacity to make choices in favour of sustainable development. In that sense, a growing understanding of sustainability of consumers might vice versa influence businesses to demonstrate this concern and act accordingly. In this regard, the Commission, in collaboration with the Tourism Sustainability Group and the Advisory Committee on Tourism, has revised the Member States’ annual reporting scheme on tourism (foreseen under the Council Decision 86/664/EEC(4)). By means of these annual reports, Member States are now also asked to report on measures which support businesses to become more sustainable and which promote more responsible choices by tourists. These reports will be used to facilitate the dissemination of this information and to exchange best-practices.
Moreover, the Commission gives financial support to tourism associations or networks within the framework of a call for proposals on “Networks for the competitiveness and sustainability of European tourism”. The aim of this call is to support trans-national actions between different kinds of stakeholders (tourism associations covering small to medium size enterprises (SMEs) and micro-enterprises, universities/ research institutes and public or private observatories and/or organisations) that create, share, manage or promote knowledge in order to create an environment favourable for small and micro enterprises and their co-operation on sustainability issues. The Commission launched the above-mentioned call in 2008 for the first time and three project proposals were selected, one of which focuses on the issue of responsible tourists. For a short description of the selected proposals please consult the website:
A second edition of the call has recently been launched.
In order to foster environmental awareness among European tourism stakeholders in general, the third edition of the European Destinations of Excellence-Award (EDEN 2008/2009) focuses on the theme of “tourism and protected areas”. The Commission also created the network of EDEN destinations with the aim to facilitate the creation of platforms for the exchange of good practices at European level and to encourage other destinations to adopt similar sustainable tourism development models. As the popularity of this award within Member States and Candidate Countries is still increasing (22 countries participate in the ongoing edition), this will also promote environmentally-friendly forms of tourism.
The Commission is also organising events during which all tourism stakeholders learn how to use and benefit from existing European financial instruments for the implementation of the ‘Agenda’. Such events are also hosted by the EU Presidencies and are attended by Member States’ and industry representatives.
Finally, the Commission together with Member States, has also been actively promoting sustainable tourism through the use of the EU Eco-label (a voluntary tool that aims at decreasing the environmental impacts of products and services on a life cycle perspective), for tourist accommodation and campsite service, as a way to help EU consumers to opt for environmentally friendly tourist services and also to help and motivate operators to reduce environmental impacts, through limiting energy and water consumption, waste production, and energy and increasing the use of renewable resources, while promoting environmental communication and education. As of February 2009, campsite and tourist accommodation service accounted for 323 license holders in the EU.
(3) COM (2007) 0621 final
(4) 86/664/EEC: Council Decision of 22 December 1986 establishing a consultation and cooperation procedure in the field of tourism, OJ L 384, 31.12.1986
Source: European Parliament