With a new European Commission taking office there is a window of opportunity for Brussels to develop a competitive and successful travel market in Europe - and the travel industry has its role to play, says Christoph Klenner, secretary general of ETTSA
The announcement of a new more presidential structure in the European Commission, with Jean-Claude Juncker at the helm, augurs a sea change in the European capital.
Seven new vice presidents of the Commission, who will take office in November 2014, will have powerful coordinating roles over specific clusters of issues, such as jobs and growth, or digital policy.
The merging of different portfolios and departments in the new Commission is designed to create more coherent policy and could be an important development for business.
In the new structure policies regarding Package Travel, Unfair Commercial Practices as well as Price Comparison Tools for example, will be dealt with Justice and Consumer Affairs Commissioner, Vêra Jourovà.
Currently, these issues are the remit of different Commissioners, leading to a silo approach.
An opportunity exists for the travel and tourism sector to engage strongly on the top priorities identified by the EU: revitalising the European economy and strengthening the digital single market are areas where our sector has much to contribute.
Working together, we have an opportunity to help deliver a stronger Europe with a fully functioning market and solid and fair consumer protection.
The importance of partnerships
Efforts by airlines, distributors and online and offline travel agents to influence EU policy-making have been fragmented to date.
On issues of common concern – such as travel facilitation, intermodality, markets access and a consistent consumer protection regime – messages have been muted due to a lack of cooperation and coordination.
In the changing Brussels landscape, the travel industry has a unique opportunity to engage policy makers with one voice to create more impact and deliver better policies for our businesses and consumers.
We must highlight the sector’s value in job creation, our contribution to European GDP, and the value travel and tourism brings to all four corners of Europe.
Let’s build a travel industry coalition
Growing euro-scepticism presents a risk that EU Member States will revert to short sighted protectionism. In a global economy this could spell disaster for Europe’s collective economic recovery.
It is important for Europe to develop a fair and simple legal framework, one that allows entrepreneurial freedom balanced with certainty for consumers and encourages trust and confidence in the market.
ETTSA believes that the creation of a formal coalition across the travel industry, similar to US Travel across the pond, should be developed by lead players in the travel sector.
This will ensure that the needs and priorities of travel and tourism are recognised, debated and addressed at the highest political echelons.
Together we can create a stronger force with a single goal: delivering a fully functioning travel market in Europe.
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