The European Commission Senior Tourism Initiative

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanks to Lisbon Treaty, the European Commission (EC), in cooperation with the Member States and associations representing the sector, has invested considerable effort in implementing a series of actions intended to strengthen European tourism and its competitiveness.

In line with its 2010 Communication on tourism (COM(2010)352 final 30.06.2010), the EC proposes to carry out tourism actions with a high European added value, overcoming the seasonal nature of demand by enhancing an extension of the tourism season through the facilitation of transnational tourism flows in the low season.

If we consider the general travel market trends, a clear yearly picture of travel concentration within a few months generates a lack of competitiveness along the rest of the year. Thus, extending the season could be the beginning of a virtuous cycle of improvement.

Since 2009, in the framework of the initiative "Calypso - tourism for all”, the Commission co-financed 10 transnational projects, involving 17 Member States plus Serbia and Montenegro, aiming at developing transnational low season exchanges for the most vulnerable target groups (youths, people with disabilities, and families with low income).

In 2012, the European Commission initiated the “Calypso+” idea, drawing special attention to the senior group which has demonstrated to have the greatest potential for the European tourism in terms of further growth development and job generation.

Vice-President Antonio Tajani asked the EU Ministers in charge of tourism for their support of an ambitious action aiming at reinforcing collaboration among Member States, encouraging senior citizens to travel in Europe during the low season, as a concrete measure to face the special economic situation.

The EC launched in June 2013 the first Call for proposals dedicated to senior tourism with a positive response of 58 accepted submissions and every EU28 and some non EU countries participating.

The general positive feedback and the strong political support led the Commission to join efforts and engage tourism authorities at regional and national level, as well as industry and senior organisations, in a stronger public-private partnership initiative: “Europe, the best destination for seniors” to increase low/medium tourism flows for senior tourists within European countries and from third countries (Brazil, USA and China during the pilot phase).

A public questionnaire, launched in September 2013, has been addressed to the main stakeholders across Europe, covering 23 Member States, Turkey and 6 EU associations.  More than 95% of the respondents expressed their willingness to participate in a common European programme to increase senior travel flows.

After different workshops and the voluntary support of a pool of 20 experts, the Commission elaborated a Report: “Facilitating cooperation mechanisms to increase senior tourists’ travels within Europe and from third countries in the low and medium seasons”.  This Report is intended to be a practical document providing existing knowledge base of the senior tourism market, with a particular emphasis on the seniors’ main characteristics, the tourism product development, the opportunities offered by third countries’ markets, along with governance and financing opportunities. The overall objective is to set up recommendations for strategic actions, identifying the role that different actors might play in their implementation. 

In this sense, the Report will be annexed by an Action Plan and the Commission will set up an “European Senior Tourism Initiative Board-EUSTIB-” for the period 2014-2016, which will ensure the transversal guidance, coordination and monitoring of the activities undertaken under this Action plan.

Moreover, the Commission has set up an inter-service group on the “silver economy” to explore collaboration synergies and draft a common narrative within different EU Commission policies or initiatives on active and healthy ageing.

Finally, the EC envisages to strengthening the financial support up to 1.8 M€ through a new Call for Proposals under the COSME Program for 2014 published on 10 October 2014, to increase transnational tourism flows in the low/medium seasons for senior and also exploring more in depth the youth market, with the same aim of facilitating transnational mobility and fostering public-private partnerships.

 Written by European Commission, Enterprise and Industry Directorate-General, Tourism Policy Unit

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