Europe: Elena Kountoura spoke at Olympia Forum III on tourism, and highlighted that the sector is ‘necessary support for small and medium enterprises with unhindered access to funding from the Recovery Fund and NSRF’. The need for coherent policies and financing for the sustainability of tourism, as a critical European and national goal, was presented by SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance MEP Elena Kountoura speaking at Olympia Forum III, organized by the Delphi Economic Forum and PATRIS newspaper.
In the special section on tourism, he referred to the need for “Europe to remain the first global tourist destination, but now in terms of sustainability.”
She pointed out that this particularly concerns Greece, which already before the pandemic, in the SYRIZA government, with hard work and planning, our country became one of the popular European tourist destinations and today has a decisive role in the next day for tourism in Europe. She emphasized that during her tenure as Minister of Tourism, the foundations for sustainable tourism development were laid, with the strategy for tourism 365 days a year in Greece and with Law 4582 of 2018 for the first institutional framework for organized, professional development of all thematic forms of tourism.
The European Parliament has pushed for tourism to be high on the European agenda. She specifically referred to the report on the first European strategy for sustainable tourism, proposed and prepared by the TRAN Committee on Transport and Tourism on her own initiative and adopted as a resolution in 2021. With this resolution, the European Parliament inter alia called for the following:
• Clear targets and innovative measures to reduce the climate and environmental footprint.
• The development of more sustainable forms of tourism and the diversification of the offer.
• New cooperation initiatives between all agencies and civil society and the development of new digital services and skills in the public and private sectors and for human resources.
She, however, emphasized the need for more ambitious political will for the holistic transformation of the sector, which requires a combination of policies and funding.
Tourism today is not a separate sectoral policy but is indirectly supported by other policies, programs and funds. Financial tools are fragmented, and SMEs, despite constituting over 90% of all businesses, have limited to non-existent access to them. Small businesses are practically excluded from the Recovery Fund, said Elena Kountoura, especially in Greece, citing the recent data of GSEVEE, according to which NSRF programs concern only 6% of small businesses, while they have access to bank loans not even 4 out of 100 businesses.
The MEP pointed out that in the context of the claims in the European Parliament, she has requested resolutions and interventions:
• A separate budget line for tourism, which is missing,
• The establishment of a single European agency for tourism,
• The creation of a European crisis management mechanism in tourism.
She specifically stated, “No country and no region can cope on their own with such strong crises as the pandemic, the climate crisis, and of course, the acute energy crisis we are experiencing. Energy costs affect travel and hurt tourism businesses, driving up their operating costs. We know the priorities and the needs, but also the goals to be achieved through European and national policies for sustainability in tourism, the double green and digital transition. The crucial bet is how this policy will be implemented in practice at all levels, with balanced, sustainable development of each region, with environmental protection, and with benefits for destinations, local societies and economies.”
She added, “For this reason, one of my main proposals in our resolution was for member states to draw up national as well as regional plans for sustainable tourism development and to finance them from the Recovery and Resilience Fund. Personally, I consider it a great opportunity so that nationally, but also in particular regions with significant potential for tourism development, such as Western Greece and the Peloponnese, can support an organized tourism development plan, which covers local needs, utilizes the unique advantages of each region, and meet the objectives of sustainability, as defined by the European Green Deal.”
At the same time, Elena Kountoura mentioned tourist mobility and the need to invest in new infrastructure and projects for sustainable means of transport, which are a central bet nationally and for the whole of Europe.