" We wish to be a force for raising awareness but also for bringing forward proposals"

7 min reading time

Published on 26/03/24 - Updated on 26/03/24

HOTREC tourisme Europe

As part of the European elections to be held in June 2024, HOTREC has produced a manifesto aimed at candidates to raise their awareness of the issues facing the European hospitality industry. Interview with HOTREC's CEO, Marie Audren.

HOTREC Manifesto for the 2024 European Elections

"This is obviously a very important document that we wanted to draw up in coordination and discussion with all HOTREC members. Its purpose is to reflect the objectives and ambitions of the sector at European level.

The previous mandate of the European institutions was marked by major crises, the first and most unprecedented of which was COVID. No sooner had we left COVID than the war in Ukraine began. The resulting geopolitical and economic instability also had an impact on the sector.

It was quite a heavy mandate. But it also allowed the sector to regroup and to be clear about its issues and priorities. This period has demonstrated the importance of the hotel and catering sector, and tourism in general, for the European Union.

Tourism challenges and labour shortages

We wanted to highlight the challenges facing tourism policy in Europe. The issue of the lack of manpower and qualifications was, as we saw very clearly, in all the discussions with our members.
The same is true of the so-called digital transition and the move towards a more sustainable society. These are also movements that were at work before COVID. But COVID has accelerated many things. According to an internal HOTREC survey, around 10% to 20% of the workforce was missing. The lack of qualified staff is a real problem for our establishments, where the quality of service is based on listening to and paying attention to customers.

Accelerating the Climate and Sustainable Transition

What's more, we've just come through a number of years marked by climatic phenomena that have raised major issues.

At the same time, we at HOTREC are looking at consumer expectations and new ways of consuming. We operate in a sector that combines tradition with a great deal of innovation.

The importance of local and national action

It's very important to us that the issues we address at European level are also addressed at national and local level.

We launched this work at our General Meeting in Brussels in October 2023, which was the right time to start discussing the issues. We officially presented it to the press and to European stakeholders at our European Hospitality Day at the end of 2023. This document is the result of close collaboration with our members. 

Impact of the European Elections and Political Commitment

What's important for us is that this document is used during the European elections campaign. The European elections will be held between 6 and 9 June in all the countries of the European Union. But a campaign is conducted at national level, so we have distributed this document widely to make it just as useful.

Now is the time to start talking to the candidates in their own countries. We are going to have a new Parliament sitting for the first time in July. It will reflect the political majority and the balance resulting from these elections. We will have a new President of the European Commission, as well as new Commissioners.

It's important for us to be present upstream to discuss with the political parties and also when the new representatives arrive in Parliament. We want to create a commitment with them. It's important that HOTREC members at national level take the document and make it their own, modify it or add to it.

The aim is to have MEPs who come to Brussels and sit in Parliament having been made aware of the issues facing the sector. This will enable us to engage in a dialogue, as this is a 5-year term.

The European Commission's departments are already thinking about the proposals to be made for the next term. We want to be a force for raising awareness, but also for making proposals.

The idea is to highlight the issues on which it is important for the European Union to work. We did this under the previous mandate on the issue of short-term rentals. We also did it on the issue of competition and pressure from online booking platforms.

Once the parliament is installed in July, the Member States will have to choose a president and a team of commissioners who will be in place in the autumn, and then present a new work programme. The aim is really to get people thinking about the importance of tourism and the key levers.

Our members all have different sensitivities, more or less important issues, which also represents the diversity of the sector. We are a sector with large players, very small companies and medium-sized businesses. We operate in countries where climate change is a major issue, sometimes with different challenges depending on the region. Not everyone moves at the same speed, so it's not always an easy exercise, but I think we've succeeded. It's a document that reflects the major challenges facing the sector. Each country will be able to use it in its own way and engage in dialogue with the candidates and, subsequently, the elected representatives.

We want the European dimension of the sector to be grasped by the sector, and for it to be a basis for discussion with the candidates. There are very national issues, and that's perfectly normal, but there are also issues around waste and relations with players like Google or Booking, which are subjects that need to be dealt with at European level.

We wanted to provide a tool so that when elected representatives arrive in Brussels, they are aware of the sector's cause. It's then up to us to work with them and make ourselves known.

Strengths of the Tourism Sector in Europe

The tourism sector is a force for openness and stability. A good example of this is the discussion in France about sectors in labor tension and the awareness that we need foreign workers. Less Europe is not better for business. Tourism works, it brings in foreign currency, it generates turnover.

It is essential for the European Union to recognise the tourism sector and small businesses as a key area. It is important to give them the help they need to make a successful transition to digital technology and sustainability, which are complex and vital areas. The current abundance of legislation needs to be better applied by businesses to facilitate this transition to a more sustainable business model.

The European Commission is committed to reducing the regulatory burden on small businesses by a quarter. Excessive reporting obligations hamper the development of small businesses, because even if large companies can adapt, this imposes a disproportionate burden on smaller players such as restaurants and bars. It is vital to highlight the importance of these small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which are an asset to Europe through their innovation and job creation.

The tourism sector must be diversely and actively represented at European level

We are campaigning for a European budget line dedicated to tourism, a long-standing but persistent demand, and for the formalisation of meetings of tourism ministers every six months. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the economic and societal importance of tourism, underlining the need to keep the sector high on the European agenda, with future discussions planned on topics such as Schengen, visas and travel facilitation.

Platforms such as Airbnb and Booking have become dominant players in tourism, presenting considerable challenges for small entrepreneurs. It is vital that we come together to confront these financial "bulldozers" and defend the sector's interests in the face of contemporary challenges such as the water crisis and sustainable resource management.

We are striving to work together to build a coherent political vision that goes beyond opposition and puts forward constructive solutions for the future of tourism in Europe".
 

Read the manifesto 

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