A Turning Point

Opinions: Here's hoping the E.U. will take into its own hands the future of tourism in Europe.

By: Francisco Frangialli

Over the past two years the world’s tourism industry, as well as that of Europe, has been spared no difficulty. ... (But) these two years of variegated crisis have served as a real wake-up call.

In Southeast Asia, in Africa, in Latin America, and in the Caribbean, many governments and regional organizations established tourism as one of their priorities.

For the first time since 1995, the U.S. Congress established a budget to promote the United States. New countries are including tourism among the priorities for their development, and for this reason are joining the World Tourism Organization.

The most spectacular response has undoubtedly been the mobilization of the United Nations’ system in favor of this sector. On Oct. 20 at the General Assembly of the WTO in Beijing, and then on Nov. 7 at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, the WTO’s conversion into a specialized agency of the United Nations was decided. ...

Tourism will from now on be considered by international society on an equal footing with other major activities of humanity: industry, agriculture, education and culture, health, labor.

Nevertheless, work remains to be done with the European Union itself. ... Preserving the quality of tourism sites and the personality of host communities constitutes the foundation on which the success of a destination is built, and is the basis on which its image is strengthened in relation to competing destinations.

The European Union does a great deal for tourism in the form of the different community policies that have to do with this industry and which affect it for better or worse. But it does so without order, without the benefit of the requisite overall strategy that can only be established on the basis of a solid legal foundation.

It is in light of a higher interest, beyond its own, that (the WTO) hopes Europe will take into its own hands the future of this industry of the 21st century that is tourism. The tourism industry is in the midst of a great turning point, and it would be perilous indeed for Europe to let go of the steering wheel in the middle of the curve.

Excerpts of an address by Francesco Frangialli, secretary-general of the World Tourism Organization, at the European Tourism Forum in Venice, Italy, Nov. 29.