New technologies key for Europe’s tourism leadership

PR No.: PR 17035

Tourism experts as well as political and private sector representatives met in Madrid to discuss the challenges and opportunities offered by new technologies in order to continue advancing in areas such as the competitiveness and sustainability of the sector in Europe. The conference, organized by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Amadeus IT Group and the European Parliament, took place in the Office of the European Parliament in Spain. 

The meeting held on the morning of 24 March consisted of two sessions. The first focused on the concept of “smart mobility”, addressing the challenges of connectivity on the European continent and the potential of new technologies. The second round table explored strategies to empower small and medium-sized businesses to capitalize on the opportunities offered by the digital market, especially with regard to relations with the traveller.

“New technologies are an essential component of the tourism sector, not only in terms of exchange of information and knowledge, but also in the development of applications and methodologies to ensure the progress of more sustainable practices in the sector in areas such as climate change or the preservation of tangible and intangible heritage,” UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai said at the opening of the event.

“For transport and tourism in the European continent, the future is already here. Digitalization has revolutionized everything from destination choice to mobility options or payment methods. Modern travellers are technology users and are more demanding than ever.  They expect to have to have everything at their disposal with just one click. In advancing towards societies that value connectivity and individual consumer needs, the European Union must create the right conditions for an operational and functional digital single market, as well as emphasize the value of innovation,” explained Claudia Tapardel, MEP and co-director of the Intergroup on Tourism Sector Development and Cultural Heritage in Europe.

“The digitalization of the travel and tourism sector is one of the main challenges facing the sector in order to remain competitive in Europe. It is our responsibility as a leader in the development of technology for travel and tourism to promote spaces for discussion and collaboration in which companies and institutions work together on the question of innovation, as is the case of this conference. Innovation in the field of smart multimodal mobility and support for SMEs in digital adoption are two key strategic axes for us,” said Juan Jesús García, who is responsible for Institutional Relations for Europe at the Amadeus IT Group.

Among the participants in the discussions were Romanian Minister of Tourism Mircea Dobre, Malta’s Minister of Tourism Edward Zammit Lewis, Iuliana Gabriela Aluas, Deputy Head of Unit of the European Commission on Tourism and Emerging and Creative Industries, together with other members of the European Parliament, the Vienna Tourism Board and representatives of the European Travel Commission, the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodation (CEHAT) and the private sector such as Blablacar.

The link between new technologies and innovation in the tourism sector is one of the priority areas of work of the World Tourism Organization, which recently held the First Conference on Smart Destinations.

This topic is particularly relevant in light of the celebration in 2017 of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, a global campaign led by the UNWTO.

Europe’s growing interest in tourism

Europe is the world's leading tourist destination with 580 million international tourists in 2016. According to the UNWTO’s projections, in 2030 there will be 1.8 billion international tourist arrivals in the world, a figure that in Europe will be about 750 million, more than 40% of the total.

Within the European Union, the tourism sector comprises 1.8 million enterprises, mostly small and medium-sized enterprises. Tourism accounts for 5 per cent of gross domestic product and 5.2 per cent of jobs in the labour force (employing about 9.7 million people). Considering linkages with other economic sectors, this contribution is even higher (more than 10% of GDP and at least 12% of total employment, i.e., some 13 million workers).

The presence of the sector in the European institutions has been growing steadily since the holding in June 1999 of the European Council session which dealt with the theme “Tourism and Employment”. Important steps were subsequently taken with the communication “Working together for the future of European tourism” (2001) and the Council Resolution on the future of Tourism, which encouraged cooperation between public and private players in the European tourism sector.

The European Tourism Forum, which began in 2002, discussed the topic of the digitalization of tourism at its fourteenth edition held in Luxembourg in 2015. Other initiatives are the EDEN project, focused on the promotion of emerging tourism destinations that have implemented sustainable principles and the Programme for the Competitiveness of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, COSME.

Additional information:

Programme of the event

Website of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development

Murcia Declaration on Smart Destinations


UNWTO Media Officer Rut Gomez Sobrino

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UNWTO Communications & Publications Programme

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