Tourism has with time become an accepted leisure activity. Tourism could be described as an event that involves a lot of traveling. People travel to different places for a short period of time or even for a relatively long time, although, not for more than one year. Out of this traveling people derive pleasure and fulfillment. Tourism has been one of the leading revenue earners in many countries. In fact, tourism results in over 30% of the entire exports worldwide. Tourism affects the lives of many people directly in the sense that it influences their economy, their social life, as well as their culture, not to mention their education systems. It has led to the creation of so many job opportunities in the world, and mostly in economies that have tourism as their leading income earner. Transport, hotels, national parks, and game reserves in particular and the hospitality industry in general, are just some of the places just to mention that have provided employment opportunities to thousands of people, as far as tourism is concerned. The following paper aims at analyzing the effects of the European Union policies on the tourism industry.
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European Union Policies and Tourism
European Union has for a long time been a leading destination of tourists, as compared to other countries. Tourism has continued to receive an upper hand by different stakeholders; thus, it has continued to record enormous growth. By 1999, Europe was the leading global destination for tourists (European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions 1). European tourism has a big effect on the economy of the European Union. In fact, tourism in the European Union is the third-largest economic sector. Although tourism has continued to grow in a big way, there are so many challenges facing the sector. European Union has continued to face environmental, as well as social, challenges. These challenges range from negative policies, economic crises, natural disasters, e.g. earthquakes, changes in the population, as well as globalization. It is with such an understanding that the European Union has come up with policies and initiatives that have a direct effect on the tourism industry. European Union, in an effort to have an impact on the tourism industry, has initiated several programs. These programs touch different sectors of the economy including and not limited to the education sector, society, and culture, the youth, the agricultural sector among others that will be discussed in the subsequent chapters of this paper. The following pages are aimed at highlighting the different European policies and their effects on tourism.
In 2000, the European Union under the umbrella of its council developed a report based on the different working groups. Each of these groups was to tackle a given issue. One group was to handle issues related to information management using the new technology; another one was to deal with the training of different stakeholders working in the tourism sector. Enhancing the standards of the tourist products was given to another group, while the fourth group was given the responsibility of promoting tourism development.
In an effort to enhance the flow of information amongst different stakeholders, the 1st group drafted several recommendations. To analyze the effects or impacts of tourism on the economy at large, to enhance external and internal flows of information, to search for the new ways of passing information to potential tourists, and to analyze labor markets and training were only some of the recommendations given. The group number two discovered that there were big issues that needed to be solved first in an effort to improve the skills of the laborers, who worked in the tourism sector. These problems were:
a. The staff members, who worked in the industry, did not have corresponding qualifications;
b. Due to the slow pace in labor development, there was no competition in the small and medium enterprises;
c. The poor image in the tourism industry as a result of the unqualified labor that was not aware of the importance of posing a good image to its clients i.e. the tourists;
d. An inadequate number of staff in the industry.
This working group came up with recommendations that were geared at training more skilled laborers in the tourism sector, as well as retaining those, who were there, pulling up new and well-equipped laborers in terms of their skills in the sector, and improving the small and medium enterprises in an effort to beef up the competition. The group in an effort to ensure sustainability in the competition sector came up with several ways of tackling technical problems in the sector as well. They came up with the ways of passing up-to-date information to different stakeholders. A book that was to be a practical guide of the learning areas in the tourism industry was formulated. The book was to deal more with practical issues than with the theoretical ones. It was also to provide practical ways, in which different stakeholders in the sector would work together.
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The third group had been given the responsibility of seeking quality in the tourism sector. The group agreed that tourists would be given the kind of services they wanted, because to them that was the definition of quality, i.e. meeting the tourists’ expectations in all ways. It may be either in the association with the laborers in the sector or in the association with different products in the tourism industry, all the expectations of the tourist were to be achieved. According to them, the expectations of every tourist were supposed to be met, regardless of his or her background or physical ability. In a bid to show seriousness in this matter they developed a quality policy that was to be obeyed by all the stakeholders in the tourism sector. The group outlined different policy areas that had a direct link to the quality of the tourism industry. These policy areas included transport, environment, agriculture, climate change, competition, education, and energy among others that will be discussed later in this paper. The group came up with areas that required direct intervention by the European Union. The group decided that there supposed to be quality indicators that could be used by the different stakeholders in the measurement of their quality levels. The group formulated these indicators that were later to be passed by the council of the European Union.
The fourth group was given the mandate of ensuring that the environment was well protected as a way of promoting tourism. The group came up with certain recommendations, some of which included coming up with a body that would foresee all the tourism activities and would be able to feed different stakeholders with relevant information. The last group was to deal with communication and information technology in the tourism industry. The group identified areas that had a great impact on the industry. Electronic commerce and the formation of a networking system were some of the areas identified. The group suggested that information should be made available for small and medium enterprises in order to enhance their growth. The group gave several recommendations that were to be implemented. These recommendations included setting up an information resource center for e-tourism. This center was to make available all the relevant information on tourism and it was to be European knowledge-based. Another recommendation given was to set up two important groups that were to deal with urgent issues. Out of these two groups, one was to deal with e-commerce services, while another was to deal with tax and laws in the tourism sector. The last recommendation was to form a central body that would be geared at improving the market share for small and medium enterprises in the tourism industry.
In an effort to streamline the tourism industry the European Union has identified the key areas that really have a direct influence on the tourism industry. Different key stakeholders under the umbrella of the European Union have formulated different strategies on these key areas. These strategies have been formed not for any other reason but to improve the quality of tourism. Each key area will be discussed below in depth. These areas include:
· Information, communication, and technology;
· Internal market share;
· The environment;
· The climate;
· Rural development and Agriculture;
· Employment and societal affairs;
· Internal affairs;
· Social justice;
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Competition may be referred to as a business ordeal that involves price wars. In competition, business partners try to outdo one another in the number of customers. This was especially the case between rival airlines in their quest to win new markets within the newly expanded European bloc (European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions 13). Thus, despite the inclusion of former Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries into the EU in 2004, member states have their own tourism goals, which form the basis of competition within the EU bloc. This is because the original aim of integrating CEE states into the EU was not to expand tourism but to promote political stability in Europe (Hall, Smith, and Marciszewska 5). This comes about as a result of the varying prices they have. With the knowledge that fair competition would be a great advantage to tourists, the European Union has formulated policies and guidelines that ensure that there is free and fair competition in the tourism sectors. A lot of creativity is involved in businesses that are in competition. As a result of competition, however, new products are formed and better services are given. All this is an advantage to the tourists because they enjoy better services. The council prohibits the formation of business cartels or mergers that can become barriers to fair competition. This mostly applies to air transport. The European Union also prohibits the fixing of prices by certain businesses. This is because they discovered it was a way of doing away with competitors in the market. Businesses that did that wanted to remain as monopolies, and this would not encourage creativity in the tourism sector. The European Commission has given room for expansion of the air transport, and this includes opening up new routes. The Union has supported the small airlines in the European region so that they could expand. There has been an overflow of tourists in the region as a result of this decision. The support of the small airlines has only ensured that there is steady competition in air transport. The competitiveness in the prices of air tickets has been a big advantage for the tourists. This is because they do not have to pay large sums of money in order to travel.
The environment is a critical factor that tourists put into consideration when visiting different areas in the European Union. The European Union through the general directorate has come up with a strategy of enhancing environment preservation. The Union has come with measures that have helped to improve the tourism activity through environmental protection, and also measures that have been geared towards reducing tourism impact on the environment. This has been as a result of both positive and negative impacts that the environment has on the tourism activities. The fact that that tourism can also have an effect on the environment, both positive and negative, has also aided in the putting up of these strategies. In 2006, the Union came up with directives aimed at protecting the beaches and ensuring that water on these beaches is of high quality. The union has also come up with an initiative that involves different businesses coming up together to share their business ideas. This only takes place under the platform of the Business and biodiversity platform. The businesses have created awareness on the importance of tourism and the importance of coming up with environmentally friendly services to tourists. The union has also come up with eco-labels, as a way of creating competitiveness in the sector. The union has established campaign initiatives in the media to educate people on the existence of eco-labels and their importance, and especially, the potential tourists. The environment and tourism are interrelated in one way or another since each one has an impact on the other. The union, aware of this interrelationship, has beefed up its systems to come up with strategies to influence this relationship in a positive way.
One of the objectives of the union is to avail tourism-related information to the different stakeholders in the sector. It also facilitated the easy travel and movement of tourists within EU countries (Scowsi 15). Through its different stakeholders, it has come up with information communication technology. The aim of creating this department was to encourage job creation as the only way to foster economic growth. As a way of reducing calling rates by tourists away from their resident countries, the union through the communication general directorate came up with a regulation to protect tourists against these high call rates. The union has come up with what it has commonly called “Euro tariffs”. These tariffs are fixed as a way of reducing the cost of using mobile phones.
Carrying out trade in the European Union had proved to be quite a complex thing with time until the establishment of the Directorate-general for the internal market, which mandate was to get rid of the barriers of trade. Since there are many service activities in the tourism sector, which include sports, parks, and guides among others, the European Union saw it necessary to add to the growth of these servicing industries (Del Corpo et al. 17). The union has authorized the removal of all the barriers that slowed the growth of these services down. All member states are expected to comply. All the necessary administrative procedures that involve obtaining licenses and any other procedures have been centralized and made less complex. With this directive, many tourists have continued to enjoy various benefits with regard to their mobile phones. The European Union is encouraging the entry of new mobile phone operators as a way of creating competition in that sector. With the competition, there will be a challenge in the calling rates, and this will all be to the advantage of both local and foreign tourists.
Tourism involves a lot of traveling that is provided by transport. The Union has a number of incentives geared at air, road and even rail transport. These incentives include the refund of tourist money and even compensation in case there is a flight delay, cancellation, or both. Another incentive is to protect passengers traveling by any mode by giving them the right to ask for compensation in case there is loss of property, or transportation delay or cancellation. The European Union has emphasized greatly on observing the rights of the physically challenged. As a way to encourage tourism among its member states, the European Union is working on a plan to link all the modes of transport in all its member states. This will allow the easy traveling of tourists from one member state to another. Modern facilities that include high-speed trains will be put in place. With such modern facilities, there will be reduced impact on the environment as far as pollution is concerned. This is due to the fact that there will be minimal congestion in all modes of transport.
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The European Union under the taxation directorate general has a direct impact on the tourism industry in Europe (Hall, Smith, and Marciszewska 17). The directorate-general for taxation is the body mandated to come with rules that govern taxation as well as the custom unions. The difference in the taxation systems of member states in the European Union has always been a big blow to tourism activities in Europe. The European Union has discovered these challenges, has now developed a common tax system among all its member states through one of its directives.
The European Union has a mandate on developing agriculture in rural areas. This follows the resolution passed by the European Parliament in September 2008, to encourage reinvestment of tourism profits into the local development (Soave 2012). The Union has continued to encourage and give support to its member states to develop new technology that would adopt a better workforce in rural areas. Due to the development of the ICT sector, there has been an increase in the number of tourists visiting rural areas (LaMondia, Snell and Bhat 8). This has encouraged agri-tourism. The development of the agri-tourism has led to an increase in the rate of competition that has generally contributed to the growth of the tourism sector in general. Failure by the different governments in the member states to fully exploit the natural resources in the rural areas has left these areas lagging behind in tourism activities. The Union is now working on a plan of full exploitation of these natural resources. Poor infrastructure in rural areas still remains to be a barrier to the growth of the tourism industry. The Union is encouraging member states to develop the infrastructure in rural areas. With the development of the infrastructure, e.g. the road transport, communication among others, they are going to ensure that the number of tourists visiting the rural areas increases.
The laws put in place on climate by the directorate-general have had a big impact on the tourism sector. The emissions to the air by the different modes of transport have had a big impact on the climate (Del Corpo et al. 10). Air transport has been outlined by the commission as one of the leading emitters of toxic gases to the air that has had a big impact on the climate. The European Union has developed certain rules to govern the emissions of these gases to the air. However, the implementation of these rules has become so expensive to some airlines that they have passed some of these costs to their customers. With the increased cost of air transport, it has reduced the number of tourists in the region. The European Union is working with different stakeholders in the aviation industry, including the international civil aviation organization, to show to it that the number of green gases emitted to the air get reduced considerably. The European Union has also come up with strategies to invest a considerable amount of money to counter the bad impact of climate change.
Cultural tourism is one of the main tourist attractions in the European Union. To attract even more tourists the European Union under the directorate for education has come up with strategies to invest in education and culture. The Union has its mandate to ensure that all the citizens get a quality education (Del Carpo et al. 12). Since many tourists travel to Europe to experience the European culture, the Union has decided to put a lot of effort to promote cultural tourism. The Union has formed the European Heritage Label in an effort to promote cultural tourism. Those, who wish to pick up the labels, are required to put strategies in place to promote tourist destination sites. This is supposed to be done in the most environmentally friendly way.
The European Union has the right to protect the health of tourists not to disregard those too. This has continuously been done by the directorate-general for health. Protecting the rights of consumers, as far as their health is concerned, is a significant way of ensuring that the rights of tourists are protected too. The union has come up with an enforcement strategy that is commonly called “sweep”. Sweep is used to inspect the breach of consumer rights as outlined in the law. This sweep can work in all member states of the European region.
The home affairs department in the European Industry has the responsibility of awarding visas to people who want to travel. It is also responsible for the maintenance of peace under its security body. The body ensures that crime levels remain low throughout the year. In 1985, the European Union came up with the Schengen agreement, which was aimed at abolishing border controls among EU countries (Pasquini 2010). This step was taken as an initiative to enhance tourism in the European region by removing barriers that hindered easy travel across international borders. The European Union has made it easy for Chinese tourists who wish to visit Europe. Together with the Chinese government, the EU has developed M.O.U, which allows granting temporal visas to the Chinese tourists wishing to visit the European region.
It should be noted that the EU has created comprehensive administration cooperation with the intention of facilitating free movement of services and people (Europa 2009). The link has about 7000 authorities across the European Union. A performance check was initiated in 2011 to determine whether the application and implementation of the European Union were satisfactory or whether the new measures were required.
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The directive-general is a department that falls under the commission of the European Union and it deals with all the laws that affect tourism directly. There are several directives that fall under the directorate-general for justice. These directives include consumer rights directive, timeshare directive, package travel directive and unfair business-to-consumer directive (Del Corpo et al. 19). The package directive has led to the harmonization of several laws, especially the ones that involve package travels and package holidays. The directive regulates the number of people offering these services. It also requires them to carry out their business in a way that maintains the overall integrity of the tourism industry. The directive also requires them to bear responsibility for all the activities that they carry out in disseminating their services. The timeshare directive includes such things as the timeshare in ships, canal boats and also discounts to tourists, while on holiday. The directive requires that rules be put in place on the payment procedures by those traveling on ships, caravans, or even the canal boats. A period of 14 days is outlined in this directive as the time required as the cooling-off period. The purpose of coming up with such a directive was to protect the tourists, who use the services and also set up a conducive environment for about 1500 companies that were giving these services, through harmonization. The directive on unfair business to the consumer has in it all the practices that are not allowed all over the European Union. The practices include aggressive marketing, as well as misleading marketing. All the practices that have been discouraged or prohibited have been blacklisted. They are not allowed in any of the member states. Aggressive practices, such as the sale of scum scratch cards, are highly prohibited in this directive for social justice. These cards cheat tourists that they have won prizes, which is, basically, not true. All these directives are geared towards protecting the rights of tourists against business people, who are there to take advantage of them.
This is the department in the European region that falls under the docket of the directorate general maritime affairs and fisheries. It mainly deals with the control, conservation, and international relations (Del Corpo et al. 20). Due to the big number of visitors on the coastal regions of the different member states in the European Union, there was a need for the union to come up with the rules that govern tourism in those areas (Europa 2009). That why it came up with the directorate of maritime affairs. The European region under this directorate has focused its efforts on creating awareness for the people living in the coastal areas on the importance of protecting the environment surrounding them. This ensures that these areas remain attractive to tourists throughout the year. Under the marine strategy framework directive, a framework has been put in place that ensures the conservation of the maritime environment. This has led to the attraction of so many tourists in these regions.
The Lisbon Treaty has been crucial in ensuring the implementation of the various tourism-related policies adopted by the European government. The treaty provides the Charter of Fundamental Rights legal status, which compels member states to observe EU guidelines aimed at fostering fairness in the tourism industry. The Treaty’s major importance is establishing “in a clearer and more visible way the values, common to all Member States, on which the Union is founded, as well as the objectives of the Union and the principles governing its action and its relations with member states” (House of Lords European Union Committee 23). Moreover, the Lisbon Treaty was important in making the Council of Ministers an equal partner to the EU Parliament. This was necessary to encourage cooperation in legislative processes, especially with regard to budget spending in fisheries and agricultural development. This achievement is important in promoting environmental conservation and the profitable utilization of revenues generated from tourism.