Madrid, Jul 15 (EFE).- The tourism sector must take advantage of the crisis stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic to modernize, update its structure and promote training and digitization to meet new demands and become more sustainable and resilient.
Supporting this thesis were Portuguese Economy Minister Pedro Siza Vieira; Spanish Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism, Reyes Maroto, and the European Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton, at the first session of the EURAGORA forum organized by the Spanish news agency EFE and Portugal’s Lusa in the framework of the Stars4Media program co-financed by the European Commission and moderated by the presidents of both agencies, Gabriela Cañas and Nicolau Santos, respectively.
A second session, with other speakers, is to be broadcast Thursday.
MAROTO DEFENDS “HIGHER QUALITY” TOURISM
In the first session of EURAGORA on “Safety in tourism, what do consumers expect? How do the industry, governments and the European Union respond?” that was recorded on 13 July and broadcast Wednesday, the Spanish minister urged the two countries to coordinate their efforts so that “thanks to the joint work we are doing” there will be discussions in Europe about promoting the sector
In the medium and long term, it is necessary to “redistribute” the load and push for for “higher quality” tourism, for which the different administrations and private actors have to seek “an orderly substitution” of the fluxes that correct seasonality and help confront the demographic challenge by promoting inland destinations, Maroto explained.
Once the peak of the pandemic had passed, the Spanish Government presented the Tourism Impetus Plan, which aims to strengthen competitiveness, improve economic and social sustainability and increase the degree of professionalization, in addition to promoting digitization and developing new products so that Spain maintains world leadership.
The minister recalled that the different measures of government support to the sector total 20 billion euros: among them, the temporary employment regulation files (ERTE) have helped one million employees while benefits for the cessation of activity of the self-employed have aided 260,000 people.
When asked by a German journalist invited to the forum about the capacity of the Spanish health system to serve tourists, the minister stated flatly: “Spain is a safe destination.”
PEDRO SIZA ADVOCATES FOR MORE DIGITAL SKILLS
Portuguese Economy Minister Pedro Siza Vieira, noted bluntly that the crisis will have “a very serious impact” on Portuguese tourism, according to forecasts by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) that augur a global fall in the sector between 60% and 80% for this year.
He recalled that his government had allocated around 3.3 billion euros to support the sector and has set forth additional measures that he hopes to have ready before the end of the month.
“We understand that the tourism sector is going to have a slower and more difficult recovery, and we are currently finalizing support for employment, a lay-off surrogate” (a system of temporary suspension of employment applied during the state of emergency, similar to the Spanish ERTE).
Furthermore, the Portuguese government seeks to launch a “very intense” human resources training program to configure the sector with more digital skills “prepared to respond to increasingly demanding tourists.”
It is, he added, “to take advantage so that these times of less activity are times of requalification, either of our tourist offer or of our human resources.”
A GREENER AND DIGITAL TOURISM
Commissioner Thierry Breton wants to “take advantage of the opportunities” offered by the post-pandemic economic recovery fund under consideration in the EU to invest in the tourism sector in order to make it “greener, more digital and more resilient.”
In his opinion, it is time to look forward to shaping the future of tourism and in this regard he recalled his intention to hold a forum on the sector in the autumn that lays the foundations for a sustainable, resilient and innovative European ecosystem.
SUSTAINABILITY, INNOVATION AND DATA ARE KEY UNWTO SAYS
According to the regional director for Europe of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Alessandra Priante, the elements that must mark the “new normality” in the sector are “sustainability, innovation and data.”