1. The universe of the Tourism sector is mainly composed of micro, small and medium-sized companies, primarily inserted in an ecosystem of hotels, bars, and restaurants. These are companies with specific needs and whose use of European funds is essential to expand and innovate – more critical in crisis when survival itself is at stake. In the multiple approaches that the European Parliament’s Tourism Task Force has carried out with agents in the Tourism sector, the difficulty accessing European funds is evident, mainly because these are very dispersed, and there is no dedicated funding line for the industry. The argument does not convince us, bearing in mind that Health and Education are also not a competence of the Union and still have financial support.
While this direct support line is not created, agents must acquire skills in evaluating the 14 different programs they can access to finance their investments, contemplated in the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework. The complexity in accessing calls means that many small and medium-sized companies miss opportunities and do not maximize the fund’s potential.
In the Tourism Task Force, we believe that the EU must empower companies with this knowledge to prepare their expansion and innovation plans autonomously and consciously. An essential tool to know which instruments they have at their disposal to face exogenous crises, such as the pandemic or, more recently, the restrictions caused by the war in Ukraine.
Large companies have human and financial resources to obtain this knowledge. Small and medium-sized ones do not. For justice and equality, the European Commission must create a platform that makes it possible to disseminate this knowledge and guarantee proper support to small business owners.
2. The European Commission recently launched an initiative to support EU cities to facilitate access to tourism and hospitality products and services through technological innovation. This initiative resulted from an EPP Portuguese Pilot Project proposal approved by European Parliament. It aims to support destinations in adopting innovative solutions that allow good management of tourist flows with a primary focus on increasing collaboration between destinations, collecting and processing data, implementing sustainable solutions, and working on solving common problems.
In the digital transformation economy era, information (and its correct handling) is vital for the definition of policies in the Tourism area and the decision-making of companies. This initiative is even more relevant for small and medium-sized companies, as a rule, with less capital to invest in these solutions.
I let here the invitation to all agents of the Tourism ecosystem to visit the platform Smart Tourism Destinations, analyse the various calls and contribute to a more innovative sector capable of providing better, aggregated, and full experiences to those who travel.
3. The growing aging of the European population is seen by many as a problem, especially concerning the sustainability of the various social protection systems. Still, it can be seen as an opportunity in terms of tourism. Several European regions have excellent characteristics to attract and provide immersive experiences to senior tourists, with specific support for elderly travellers and family trips.
Therefore, it would be essential to develop an age and longevity-friendly network of cities and communities and actions to promote Longevity Tourism. Given the European Commission’s Green Paper for Longevity and the future EU Strategy for the Silver Economy, I believe this would be the moment for joint work between the various European regions with significant valences in this area. In this regard, I must highlight the Autonomous Region of Madeira in Portugal, which already gave a giant step by supporting and providing political and governmental willingness.
The senior market represents an attractive benefit. Europe is a destination capable of attracting many tourists from third countries, with resources and the will to live out their retirement in safety and quality.
We face a resilient and innovative sector capable of overcoming all crises, however unexpected they may be. The European Commission and the Member States must support companies, associations, and regions and collaborate to implement innovative solutions to promote digital transformation to create a pathway for more sustainable and modern tourism.