Since 2015, the European Parliament has been calling to create a direct financing line for the Tourism industry. We are talking about a sector that contributes about 10% to the Gross National Product of the European Union, so this support would serve to finance its digital transformation and innovation. In this process, we have always encountered resistance from the Commission end the European Council, including when negotiating the Multiannual Financial Framework for the period 2021-2027, currently in force.
The pandemic crisis substantially impacted the entire tourism ecosystem, and I have no doubts in saying that it was the most penalized by the restrictions imposed to contain the COVID19 outbreak. Even so, and although the Next Generation EU recovery fund represents an excellent opportunity for the EU economy boost, the financial support for companies in the Tourism and Travel sector is included in generic programs, which companies from all industries can turn to.
In the European Parliament, we wanted more because we knew the entrepreneurs’ needs, especially those who invest in small and medium-sized companies. The first step towards direct financial support had to be taken, precisely what happened in negotiating the EU budget for 2022. Of the 613.5 million euros allocated to the Single Market Programme, 10 million will go exclusively to SMEs from the EU Tourism sector.
Many will say that is not much or enough. Others are far from the 350 million euros that we have demanded. Still, I prefer to emphasize the importance of this first step towards creating an autonomous line focused on the European Tourism sector. On the other hand, these 10 million represent an addition to what already exists and is available in 13 different funds allocated to the MFF 2021-2027 and to the Next Generation EU fund – the industry will have more support in 2022 than in 2020 or 2021, which has to be extolled.
The European Parliament’s Tourism Task Force has been struggling with this support. We will not stop until we obtain a line that follows the sector’s dimension, taking into account its value in the Union’s product. We know that 2.4 million SMEs of this ecosystem, which registered a turnover drop near 70% in 2020, will continue to face cash flow problems in the coming years. They will face challenges related to the energy and digital transition, with many jobs at risk. The challenges are enormous, and it is fair to reinforce the amounts of direct funds in the subsequent annual EU budgets and design a direct support line enshrined in the next EU Multiannual Financial Framework.
We no longer have any consistent reason to postpone this measure. Tourism is essential for Europe as a whole, serving, once again, as a driving force for many Member-States, including Portugal. The approval of this financing line should have as allocation criteria the weight of the sector in the Member State’s GDP.
For us, the European Parliament’s Tourism Task Force, increasing support and reducing bureaucracy is more than a goal; it is a resolution. We are listening to the entire sector, and we know its difficulties and the potential that makes Europe the best destination in the world.
I am aware of this achievement as a first step, a small one, but important towards a European Tourism Policy.