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World Tourism Organization urges EU to recognise importance of Tourism in European Constitution

Travel News Asia 3 December 2003

The European Union (EU) is being urged to recognize the importance of tourism in the text of the European Constitution being prepared ahead of the entry of 10 new Member States next year. "We hope that failure to mention tourism in the latest draft is an unfortunate oversight, which can still be rectified," World Tourism Organization (WTO) Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli said at the recent European Tourism Forum 2003 in Venice.

"Including tourism under the competencies to be shared between the Union and its members will not disturb the balance of the draft text prepared by the European Convention," he said. But by omitting it from the draft now before the Intergovernmental Conference, Europe risks losing ground and with it "the transfer of wealth and jobs to determined competitors around the world," he told the audience of EU representatives.

Mr Frangialli pointed out that the European Commission estimates that tourism accounts directly for five per cent of the EU's total GDP, and represents 2.2 million enterprises and 7.7 million jobs. But, although Europe receives some 60 per cent of international tourist arrivals and 50 per cent of worldwide receipts, "its share is shrinking in an expanding world market marked by the appearance of new entrants.

"The future of European tourism depends on the level of awareness of Europe's political leaders with regard to the importance that they are willing to give to this sector," Mr. Frangialli explained the delegates. "Despite Europe's exceptional potential, the failure to take a hand in such a critical sector of its economy and society would mean passing up an opportunity that is there for the taking."

At present tourism is included in the text of the EU's Maastricht Treaty. But it is not a Community competence in its own right, even though the Commission and the European Parliament are showing increasing interest in the sector.

WTO is proud to have been associated with the EU on a number of initiatives, including projects in the fight against sex tourism and the exploitation of children in the tourism industry, and is ready to collaborate again in promoting the sustainable development of tourism, said Mr Frangialli.

"The European Union does a great deal for tourism in the form of different Community policies which affect this industry. But it does so without the benefit of the requisite overall strategy that can only be established on the basis of a solid legal foundation," he said. "Europe's future Constitution represents an opportunity to lay down such a foundation. It is an opportunity that must not be missed."

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