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The tourism sector in the EU: A driving force for green and digital transition

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The tourism sector in the EU: A driving force for green and digital transition

Philippos Demetriou

    By Philippos Demetriou*

    The tourism industry in the EU is not only an economic force but also a catalyst for cultural exchange, sustainable practices, and regional development. It enriches lives, fosters connections, and contributes to the overall well-being of both residents and visitors.

    The European Union (EU) is actively working to enhance the sustainability, environmental friendliness, and digitalisation of the tourism industry. Some key ways in which the EU supports these goals are:

    Digital Transition of Tourism

    The European Commission recognizes that digitization significantly impacts tourism. Platforms, online payments, and social media play a crucial role in how we experience and engage with tourism. To support the competitiveness, sustainability, and resilience of the tourism sector, the EU has outlined a vision for Europe's digital transformation by 2030. This initiative, known as “Europe's Digital Decade,” focuses on four action areas:

    1. Skilling and Upskilling: Ensuring that the workforce in the tourism sector has the necessary digital skills.
    2. Secure and Sustainable Digital Infrastructures: Building robust digital infrastructure to facilitate seamless experiences for tourists.
    3. Digital Transformation of Businesses: Encouraging businesses to adopt digital solutions and innovative models.
    4. Digitalization of Public Services: Enhancing digital services for both tourists and local authorities.

    Support for Destinations, SMEs, and Visitors

    The EU provides funding and support for destinations, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and visitors. For businesses, digitalization opens up new opportunities, inspires innovation, and allows for better supply-demand matching. SMEs and micro-enterprises, which form a significant part of the tourism industry, benefit from these initiatives. Local authorities and destination management organizations (DMOs) can use digital tools to manage seasonal flows, integrate arrivals sustainably, and track trends. This is particularly important for rural and remote destinations. Visitors benefit from custom-tailored experiences, easy access to information, and integrated services through digital channels.

    In February 2022, the European Commission called on tourism stakeholders to share concrete actions for the “Transition Pathway for Tourism.” This initiative aims to co-implement measures that lead to greener, more digital, and resilient tourism. The goal is to reduce the climate and environmental footprint of the sector, diversify offerings, promote cooperation, and develop new digital services.  By embracing digital solutions and green practices, the EU aims to create a more sustainable and enjoyable travel experience for everyone.

    The EU “Pact for Skills” 

    The EU Pact for Skills aims to create a skilled and adaptable tourism workforce, aligning with green and digital transitions.

    The EU Pact for Skills brings together various stakeholders to support the reskilling and upskilling of the European tourism workforce. The Pact for Skills aims to meet the objectives of the twin green and digital transition while bolstering the resilience of the tourism ecosystem in the medium to long term.

    Stakeholders Involved are all types and sizes of businesses, EU Umbrella Organizations that can play a key role in shaping policies and strategies, social partners, such as unions and employer associations that collaborate to enhance skills, Vocational and Education Training Providers, Regional and Municipal Authorities etc.

    The “Touring” Project is part of these initiatives. The focus area is reskilling and upskilling to promote lifelong learning for tourism professionals and anticipating skills needs.

    Key Pillars for Sustainability in Tourism

    The digital and green economy, together with sustainability, are key pillars for the development of a sustainable tourism sector. Aiming at the development of a strategic planning that will help the sustainability of the tourism sector, the following principles should be applied:

    Digital Innovation

    Using technology can improve the traveler experience and reduce the impact on the environment. Examples include using apps to manage reservations, exploring destinations with virtual reality, and using “tools” to monitor the environment.

    Digital Promotion

    Advertising and promotion of tourist destinations can be done through digital platforms and social media, with the aim of reducing CO2 prints caused by travel and ordinary advertising activities.

    Green Infrastructure

    Investment in green infrastructure such as renewable energy, sustainable accommodation and transport can reduce tourism’s impact on the environment.

    Education and Awareness

    As well as educating businesses themselves and their employees, educating local communities, tourism businesses and travelers on best practices for preserving the environment is crucial.

    Community Development Sustainability

    The development of tourist destinations must consider the needs of local communities and contribute to local economic development without endangering the natural and cultural environment.

    Transparency and Accountability

    Tourism businesses must be transparent about the environmental and social impacts of their activities and take responsibility for those impacts. A strategic plan grafted with the most principles can be the foundation for the creation of a sustainable tourism sector that is both digitally and environmentally sustainable.

    *Member of POVEK

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