EU seeks to boost tourism and protect environment
SANTANDER - European tourism experts are trying to find ways of making the holiday industry more environmentally friendly while promoting a recovery from the slump that followed the September 11 attacks.
Delegates attending a European Union tourism seminar agreed that the future of the industry in Europe depended on its ability to provide a range of quality tourism services while defending Europe\'s environmental riches.
In a coastal setting overlooking sunny stretches of white sands, tourism professionals said the range and the type of services offered to holiday-makers needed to be widened.
More needed to be done to encourage people to visit rural and historic areas that lag behind sought-after coastal areas, such as the beaches of southern Spain, they added.
Tourism accounts for seven percent of the European Union\'s GDP, and officials want to make that sustainable.
Massive coastal resorts have helped make Spain the world\'s number two tourist destination but also have raised concerns over water use, destruction of wildlife habitat and erosion.
\"In France, 80 percent of tourists go to 20 percent of the territory...this is probably applicable to other places in Europe,\" said Georges Ribiere, a French Tourism Department official.
\"We need to develop the less-frequented areas, perhaps offering tax breaks or specific promotions, and environment management should also play a major role,\" he said.
France is the world\'s top tourist destination and Europe the most visited continent. But European tourism ministers agreed that the region could not afford to be complacent given the weakening of its leading position in recent years.
The sector is trying to consolidate its recovery from a slump following last year\'s attacks on the United States.
Earlier the head of the World Tourism Organisation Francesco Frangialli told the seminar that the sector would be back to pre-September 11 levels by the second half of this year.
The European Commission is preparing a discussion paper on how to make tourism across the continent more environmentally safe and identify best practices in the sector.
The paper will be presented to a Tourism Forum to take place in Brussels in December.
Story by Elisabeth O\'Leary
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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