S&D Group member Istvan Ujhelyi and Renaud Muselier from the EPP have submitted their joint political proposal to the European Commission. The proposal tabled by the Hungarian and French politicians aims at the strategic development of the European tourism sector by harnessing the huge potentials of this flourishing industry. Their paper suggests – similarly to the European Capital of Culture programme – the establishment of the “European Capital of Tourism” title to be awarded to a maximum of three EU cities or regions annually, based on the decision of various representatives of the tourism industry, the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the Committee of the Regions. After discussing the final details of the project in Marseille, Mr Ujhelyi received his plaquette awarded by the Provence-Alpes- Côte d’Azur region, and the two politicians proceeded to a joint press conference presenting the European Capital of Tourism plan itself.
Mr Ujhelyi and Mr Muselier both underlined that the tourism sector is the third largest in Europe, providing some 25 million jobs and contributing to the European economy by a whopping 350 billion EUR a year. “Tourism industry generates nearly 10% of the EU’s GDP, and the proportion is expected only to grow in coming years. Even the global financial crisis did not seem to halt the influx of visitors: last year alone more than 455 million tourists visited Europe. At the same time, global challenges like terrorism call for even more careful strategic thinking in developing the tourism sector, what we like to call the ‘industry of peace’” – explained Mr Ujhelyi.
According to Renaud Muselier this new project can significantly improve the accessibility and quality of local and regional tourism, strengthening the role and the cooperation between the cities involved.
“The award should be based on a specifically tourism related programme, which must have a strong European dimension to it. The programme must be part of a comprehensive long-term strategy having a sustainable impact on local and regional tourism. In order to receive this title it is crucial that the eventual “European Capital of Tourism” presents a unique and innovative programme to promote their respective region from a tourism-related aspect.” – said the French MEP, adding that when Marseille was European Capital of Culture in 2013, they hosted more than 11 million guests, just like Pécs in Southern-Hungary profited immensely from the title as more than one-third of it hotel rooms were booked out permanently.
Both Mr Ujhelyi and Mr Muselier are members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Transport and Tourism, with the Hungarian MEP being the Vice-President of the committee. Mr Muselier worked as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, while Mr Ujhelyi was Chair of the National Tourism Committee, and coordinated developments in the tourism sector in Hungary as Secretary of State. Moreover, Mr Muselier has an interesting Hungarian connection in his pedigree: his grandfather, Émile Muselier, Admiral of the French Navy in the Second World War, is the nephew of the Budapest-born Géraldine Apponyi, the last queen of Albania.