On 1 March, the European Commission organises the second Pan-European Cruise Dialogue. With this dialogue, the Commission wants to help the sector recover from the crisis and align with the objectives of the European Green Deal, leading to a more sustainable and resilient cruise tourism sector in Europe.
The event fits in the larger implementation of the European Commission’s new approach to a sustainable blue economy, published in May 2021. It brings together the entire cruise tourism sector, including the industry, the ports, the destinations, the tourism authorities, the countries, the regions, the towns, and European institutions and agencies like the European Maritime and Safety Agency.
Cruise tourism in Europe
Europe is the second biggest cruise market after North America, both as a source of passengers and as a cruise destination. The sector provides over 400,000 jobs (2019) and has a turnover of roughly 40 billion euro. Moreover, 95% of all cruise ships worldwide are built in European shipyards. Every year, some 7 million Europeans spend their holidays on a cruise ship.
That is, before the covid-19 crisis. Because all of this changed in 2020. Cruise tourism is among the industry sectors most heavily hit by the crisis, if not the most affected one in terms of turnover and employment. Due to lockdown measures, travel restrictions and several outbreaks on board, cruise operations came to a full halt in March 2020. The industry is expected to gradually restart operations in the second half of 2022.
European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius says:
The Commission has acted very strongly to bring the sector back on its feet. The development of the EU’s Health and Safety Seal for tourism establishments and the Digital COVID Certificate in particular has been a success story. But to truly recover and prepare for the future, the cruise tourism sector will need to reinvent itself, by reducing its environmental impact while generating value for consumers. Through NextGenerationEU, our 800 billion euro recovery plan, we are ready to support the green and digital transition plans of the industry.
New context, new opportunities
As Commissioner Sinkevičius pointed out, the cruise sector may not return to where it left off before the crisis. A new generation of tourists has new expectations - in terms of the impact on the climate, the environment and on coastal communities. According to a recent Eurobarometer survey, over 80% of EU citizens are prepared to change their travel and tourism habits to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
At the event, sustainable cruise tourism for the coming years is examined with the aim to highlight good practices that leverage partnerships of cruise tourism stakeholders and amplify their joint efforts.
European framework for sustainable tourism
Even though some countries have their own national strategies, there is strong consensus that at this point a European framework for sustainable tourism is needed.
In March 2021, the European Parliament invited the Commission in a resolution to establish a new EU strategy for sustainable and strategic tourism aligned with the Digital Agenda, the European Green Deal and the UN sustainable Development Goals. In May of the same year, also the Council called on the European Commission to propose an outline for an EU Agenda for Tourism 2030.
Moreover, strengthening the development of sustainable tourism is identified in the Commission’s new approach to a sustainable blue economy, published in May 2021. The conclusions from the Pan-European Cruise Dialogue will feed into those workstreams.
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