International tourism in Europe continues to grow above expectations and despite the region's on-going economic constrains.
In 2013, international tourist arrivals grew by 5%, an additional 29 million as compared to 2012, raising the total to 563 million, more than half of the world's total.
European Tourism representatives gathered at the 57th Meeting of the UNWTO Commission for Europe identified enhanced international cooperation, innovation, private-public partnerships and accessibility as main priorities to ensure the sector's future competiveness.
The Seminar on Developing Effective Tourism Clusters, held in on the sidelines of the Meeting, laid the ground for innovative collaborative approaches for sustainable tourism development in Europe (3-4 April, Baku, Azerbaijan).
"Despite a fragile global economic recovery, particularly in the Eurozone, Europe continues to excel", said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, addressing the Meeting. "Many reasons are behind such positive performance, particularly growing collaboration and innovation, issues which are fundamental for Europe to ensure tourism continues to play a central role in the region's economic growth and job creation", he added.
"The international tourism policy agenda can only be effectively developed via intensive and international cooperation among tourism stakeholders", said Abulfas Garayev, Minister of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan. "The development of international tourism products, the worldwide promotion of open skies policies, the facilitation of international investments in tourism and the harmonisation of tourism standards and legislation around the globe are just some examples of the vast tourism agenda requiring continuous support from, and interaction between, national governments."
The main short-term challenges and priorities for European Tourism identified by UNWTO Member States include travel facilitation, connectivity, taxation, clustering and private-public partnerships, and the creation of favorable business environments to stimulate investment and innovation.
These policy priorities set the immediate tourism roadmap for Europe. The Commission concluded that as global tourism becomes increasingly competitive, Europe must take the lead on key issues such as innovation, accessible and inclusive tourism, and new models of cooperation that effectively bring together the diverse stakeholders involved in delivering tourism experiences.
The Seminar on Developing Effective Tourism Clusters, which preceded the Commission deliberations, underscored the need for tourism policy to contemplate the sector's fragmented nature and act to promote tourism clusters. The recently launched UNWTO project 'Madrid Precious Time' was presented as an example of innovative collaboration in stimulating new tourism products. Several examples of prominent clusters from UNWTO Member States such as Cyprus, France, Hungary, Norway and Romania were also presented.