Insights from the Community Event: Tourism in Next Generation EU and Interreg MED Programme 2021-27

On December 14th, 2020 a virtual meeting was organized with the aim of discussing and addressing the future of sustainable tourism in the Next Generation EU, with a focus on the REACT-EU instrument, and the Interreg MED new programming period 2021-27. Tourism is considered by the European Commission as a pillar to recover and relaunch the European economy on a more sustainable and resilient basis. This event was the occasion to present some sustainable tourism tools and strategies in the framework of transnational territorial cooperation projects, and by the same occasion, to present the results achieved in 2020 by the MED Sustainable Tourism Community.

“This is the first time in history that tourism is located at the top of the EU agenda! We have to seize this opportunity and follow very closely the greening and digital transition in the EU Recovery Plans” said Josep Rodriguez, from DIBA – Barcelona Provincial Council, during his opening speech. He presented the MED Sustainable Tourism Community and its aim to develop sustainable tourism in the Mediterranean area by enhancing the attractiveness and the tourism offer, by addressing tourism pressures and strengthening planning and management practices. He explained that the Community, gathering 24 projects and 207 partners, will focus on transfer and capitalization of projects’ results and policy recommendations. You can consult his presentation here.

The Catalogue of Outputs of the Community has then been presented by Dora Papatheochari from the University of Thessaly. She explained that “the catalogue is a collaborative process and gather the most tangible outputs produced by the Community able to be further used for transferring and capitalization purposes. The main benefit of this catalogue is the promotion of common actions that boost the sustainable and responsible development of coastal and maritime tourism in the Mediterranean region.” The Catalogue represents the Community’s legacy gathering 38 tools/outputs from 15 projects in 200 Mediterranean destinations. It will be enhanced with 9 additional projects and outputs, and constantly improved according to the Community’s need. You can consult her presentation here.

Two guests speakers were then invited to take the floor. 

“Tourism remains a priority on the EU agenda” declared Laurent de Mercey, from the European Commission Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy. He presented Next Generation EU for sustainable and resilient regional tourism. He explained that the Commission proposed the Recovery and Resilience Facility as the centrepiece of the Next Generation EU recovery instrument, whose effective implementation can deliver 2% of additional GDP by 2024 and create 2 million jobs. He explained that the Member States will submit by April 2021 their national recovery and resilience plans providing an overview of the reforms and investments in line with the objectives of the recovery and resilience facility, country-specific recommendations and EU flagships. These plans shall be centered around green and digital transition, growth potential, job creation as well social and economic resilience, and will be assessed and approved by the Council. He then explained in details the REACT-EU instrument, representing 47, 5 billion euros added to the existing cohesion policy programmes (2014-2020) and aimed at supporting the most affected regions in the remaining 3 years of the current programming period. It will focus on short term employment schemes, liquidity support to SMEs and support to green and digital transition. REACT-EU will work through the ESF and the ERDF. He then finished his presentation by presenting the Future Cohesion Policy Objectives (2021-2027), namely a smarter Europe, greener, low-carbon Europe, more connected Europe, more social Europe (with a new specific objective related to culture and tourism), and a Europe closer to citizens. You can consult his presentation here.

Pascale Lagaye from the Interreg MED Joint Secretariat, then presented Tourism in the Interreg MED Programme 2021-2027, whose goal is to contribute to the transition towards a climate-neutral society through 3 missions : an innovative sustainable economy, a protection and restoration of the natural environment, and the promotion of green living areas. She insisted on the fact that tourism will be a transversal area in this programme and presented some tourism-related measures included in the draft programme such as changing tourism practices by promoting both existing and new solutions in a new innovative way; smart tourism supporting and promoting circular and sustainable practices in the tourism sector; encouraging platforms that use emerging technologies to monitor and predict risks; implementing strategies and actions plan for a sustainable recovery in the tourism sector; and improving connection of urban and inland remote areas, including islands, paying attention to the tourism sector. The main changes will include a lower budget, a bigger territory and a variation in the architecture and typology of projects. This programme is being elaborated by taking into consideration the EU Green Deal, the conclusions from the thematic communities, Member States requirements, programme's evaluations and COVID-19 impacts. The first months of 2021 will feature discussions, consultations and validation by states and the first projects will start in December 2021. You can consult her presentation here.

You can also view the full recording of this event here on our YouTube channel.