Enter 2003 Conference Helsinki, 31 January 2003

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Mr Erkki Liikanen

Member of the European Commission, responsible for Enterprise and the Information Society

"Future challenges for the tourism sector"

ENTER 2003 Conference

Helsinki, 31 January 2003

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for the invitation to speak at the ENTER Conference “Technology on the Move” today here in Helsinki.

  1. Introduction

Tourism is a major contributor to GDP in the EU, with an average of 5% of GDP. The European Commission has a key role in raising the political visibility and importance of the tourism sector.

We adopted a major policy Communication on “Working together for the future of European Tourism” in November 2001.

Raising awareness was perceived as a necessary prerequisite for activities in favour of its competitiveness. The complexity and diversity of the tourism business chain, the insufficient knowledge about its real economic weight, the fragmentation of the activities and actors' interests were identified as the main reasons behind this situation.

After just over a year, there are very positive signs that the situation has now started to evolve.

The recent European Tourism Forum, organised on 10th December in Brussels, attracted an impressive participation - both in terms of number and level of responsibility.

The discussion focused on sustainable tourism. This is a tourism that is economically and socially viable without detracting from the environment and local culture.

All participants, public and private stakeholders, indicated their willingness to proactively contribute to the development of a European sustainable tourism. They also agreed on the need to maintain the dynamism that is being created.

Today participation at this Conference is also impressive. The high level of representatives from research, industry and destinations, meeting and discussing together is another very positive sign of the tourism actors increasingly working together.

I want to congratulate the International Federation for Information Technologies and Travel and Tourism (IFITT), responsible for the organisation.

In the context of a fast and continuous growth for tourism worldwide, Europe is losing market shares. Without new initiatives this trend is likely to continue.

Europe, which remains the first tourism destination world-wide, must build on its strength and better exploit the current and planned evolution of the tourism demand.

Together the tourism actors, both public and private, should follow the following objectives:

  • We need to inform tourists about sustainable tourism and adapt the tourism services to new trends in tourist behaviour. The objective will be to minimise the negative impact of tourism, in particular on the environment, and fully exploit the positive effect on the European economy and society.

  • We need to improve the quality of the whole chain of tourism services to better respond to tourists’ needs and contribute to their satisfaction.

Both of these objectives require:

  • For all citizens: better knowledge on the links between tourism and sustainability, and information easily accessible on destinations, including activities and services available from all tourism actors.

  • For tourism professionals: business models to ensure a sustainable growth of the sector, together with methods and supporting tools to enhance the quality of services on offer.

The topics discussed at today’s conference are essential to achieve sustainable tourism. The information society provides the enabling infrastructure and services required for the deployment of information, promotion and co-operation networks.

  1. What is the Commission doing in the domain of Information Society and tourism?

The Commission, during the past five years, funded a significant number of programmes, measures and projects related to information society and tourism.

The objective was to help the tourism sector achieve an information society environment which was able to provide the services required by the tourism sector, and to facilitate their exploitation. From research to the end user, the whole life cycle for such applications and services has been covered.

The fifth research framework programme provided, within the Information Society Technology (IST) programme, a specific tourism strand. A total of 23 projects have been launched representing a global investment of 70 millions Euros. There is no need to go into detail about these projects. Detailed presentations have already been given during the past two days of the major ones.

To summarise, the Information Society Technology (IST) research projects for tourism are mainly contributing:

  • First, to developing common platforms, interfaces and standards to facilitate the exchange of information, the interoperability of services and the emergence of new business models.

  • Second, to the integration of progress made on several technologies like multimedia information, more intelligent dialogue and user interfaces, presentation of the information on a variety of digital terminals. These progresses are particularly relevant to offer innovative Information Society services to the tourism actors.

  • And third, to the development of seamless mobile and location-aware services involving tourists as well as destination operators. This last topic is particularly important.

One of the main difficulties under the fifth framework programme on Research & Development has been to integrate core businesses tourism actors in such research projects.

We have organised information and discussion meetings to better inform the tourism actors about the IST work programme and the content of the calls. Unfortunately participation from the tourism side is still quite low. It means that most of the tourism actors, who are users of Information Technology solutions, prefer to buy an IT solution than to invest in the development of technology.

We are now moving to the 6th framework programme on Research & Development, covering the period from 2002 to 2006. Tourism is one of the challenging application areas within "applied IST research addressing major societal and economic needs".

The IST work-programme for 2003-2004 focuses on a limited set of strategic objectives covering all fields identified in the IST thematic priority. Several of these strategic objectives are offering opportunities to initiate Research & Development activities that can lead to innovative solutions in tourism.

There is, in the 6th framework programme, a new instrument called integrated project. It offers the possibility to support, under one contract, different types of activities, like research and development, demonstration, training and technology transfer.

The aim is to reach a wider adoption of technologies in businesses and in the society as a whole. This new instrument will enable the adoption and exploitation of innovative technologies and applications across a complete chain of activities. This chain can be the tourism sector.

  1. The need for an environment conducive to innovative applications

Whatever the success of a research project and the quality of its results, at the end of the project there is still an important gap to bridge. This is the transformation of research results into innovative products and services widely available on the market. This might be even more important for a sector which uses innovative solutions like tourism.

The information society has improved productivity and the quality of life. This potential is growing due to the technological developments of broadband and multi-platform access. A good example is the possibility of connecting to the Internet via means besides the PC, such as digital TV and Third Generation (3G) terminals.

These developments are opening up significant economic and social opportunities. New services, applications and content will create new markets and provide the means to increase productivity and consequently growth and employment throughout the economy.

The market provides most services. Developing new services needs significant investment. But there is a problem: funding more advanced multimedia services depends on the availability of broadband for these services to run on, while funding broadband infrastructure depends on the availability of new services to run on it.

The eEurope 2005 Action plan, adopted in June 2002, aims at providing a favourable environment for private investment to happen.

The eEurope 2005 has been designed as a two-edged strategy:

  • Promoting services, applications and content in key areas such as
    e-government, e-learning, e-health and e-business; and

  • Stimulating the deployment of a secure broadband infrastructure.

Tourism is a key economic sector. Today, it is also one of the most advanced sectors in the use of Internet services.

This has been recently observed in "the European e-business Market Watch", supported by the Commission under the “Go Digital” initiative. Access to tourism information and booking are the main applications.

The conference today, ENTER 2003, shows how much the tourism sector is already looking ahead to new generations of information society based solutions. The tourism sector is characterised by the diversity of its actors and enterprises, their geographical repartition in tourism destinations, and the fact that each citizen is potentially a tourist.

For these reasons the tourism sector can and should continue to play a leading role in the promotion and adoption of the new generation of services.

Within the eEurope 2005 Action Plan a specific action for a co-operative effort with Member States, regional authorities and the private sector is foreseen. Its objective is to define and validate a set of innovative tourism services to disseminate tourism information and contribute to the promotion of Europe as a set of attractive and diverse destinations.

  1. The new services for the tourism sector

Mobile communication is one of the key areas that provides the best potential for innovation in the coming years. This is particularly true for tourism: by nature a tourist is mobile. Mobile tourism applications and services deserve a special attention.

The Commission has recently set up a specific working group on "mobile services for tourism". Its objective is to identify a very limited number of applications with a high potential impact on tourism.

The members of this working group are experts from the tourism sector. Some of them are present here today. The group covers most of the tourism sub-sectors, from tour operators, travel agencies and transport enterprises to national or local tourism authorities.

The final report is expected by Easter 2003. The current feedback on the on-going work is very positive, with the tourists’ needs being placed at the centre of the discussions. The recommendations could and should lead to projects being supported along the priority line of the eEurope 2005 action plan.

This conference is paying a lot of attention to mobile communications and services for tourism. The next session is devoted to this aspect from an industry point of view.

Now is the right time to invest in innovative mobile services. Tourism in the recent past has been an early adopter of new technologies. Due to the diversity of the economic actors involved and its social dimension, these “3G tourism applications” could be actuators for a broader set of mobile applications and contribute to the Information Society for all.

  1. There is another important aspect, and this is content.

Content is of course crucial for the development of any application. For tourism a lot of information exists already, such as information about destinations, activities and leisure or accommodations. This existing information can be enriched with multimedia features and adapted to a multilingual and multi-cultural environment. Geographical or meteorological information is becoming increasingly important for new tourism services.

To facilitate the access to raw digital public information for new services, and in particular for the wireless Internet, the Commission has proposed a directive on the re-use of information from public origin. Such information is a significant part of the existing tourism information.

This directive will assure transparency and reasonable pricing based, at maximum, on cost recovery for the re-use of public sector information. It will achieve a degree of legal certainty for the market players and the development of innovative information-based tourism services.

  1. And now, we need to continue "working together"

The ongoing projects launched under the 5th framework programme will progressively come to an end. Thanks to some of you, the results are excellent.

Our co-operation should continue in, at least, two directions:

  • The research effort under the 6th Research Framework Programme should build on the current successes.

  • The eEurope 2005 Action Plan is open to tourist actions. As soon as the final report from the working group on "mobile services for tourism" will be available we would like to organise an open discussion.

The ENTER conference is an important event. It is a key European event,

  • For its contribution to tourism research and the dissemination of its results,

  • As a discussion forum with industry,

  • And for the exchange of experiences between destinations.

Thank you for your attention.

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