The President of the Canary Islands defends the involvement of these archipelagos in achieving sustainable tourism and the green and digital transformation of society and the economy.
The head of the regional executive insists on the need to maintain and reinforce the recognised singularities of the outermost regions and calls for the support of the Tourist Islands for the headquarters of the European Tourism Agency to be installed in the Canary Islands.
The President of the Canary Islands, Ángel Víctor Torres, at midday this afternoon, during the closing ceremony of the 1st Convention of European Tourist Islands held in Gran Canaria since yesterday, endorsed the final declaration approved at this conclave. This document appeals to the EU and the international community on the importance of these territories and emphasises their commitment to sustainable tourism, to the green transformation of the economy and society, and to the creation of a European Tourism Agency, to which the Canary Islands aspire with the firm support of the Government of Spain and all the Outermost Regions (OR).
In his speech at the closing ceremony and later to the media, Torres considered it very important that the Tourist Islands support the agency’s establishment in the Canary Islands, which is why he is calling for this support. In his opinion, this “successful” convention promoted by Exceltur is the “right way” to enhance the tourism role of the Canary Islands, whose data on employment, visitors and permanent contracts last November and this 2022 show “the strength of the Islands’ economy during the recovery”.
The head of the regional executive believes it is essential that there is a common tourism policy within the EU that joins forces and that the tourist islands play “an active role in the digital and green transformation of our territories and of the whole of Europe. In fact,” he remarked, “the EU places us at the forefront of achieving these two challenges. Despite this, the President warns that “we must not lower our guard and we must exercise an active and constant defence of our territories in order to maintain the status conferred on us by the European treaties, either because of our insular nature or our remoteness, as is the case of the nine outermost regions”.
The text of the Convention’s final declaration calls for these tourist islands to act jointly with the national and European authorities “to promote a strengthened common European tourism policy” that recognises and responds to the vulnerability of European tourist islands, regardless of their territorial division and institutional structure. Furthermore, the commitment to the creation of such a European Tourism Agency is reinforced.
To this end, the Convention has decided that, during 2023, the European tourist islands will be constituted as a Permanent Commission, in which all these archipelagos and the ORs that wish to join will participate. This body will be responsible for managing and directing all the work and studies, as well as convening the 2nd Convention in the second half of 2023 in order to bring these objectives to fruition.
Territories most affected by the pandemic and the price crisis
In its preamble, the declaration recalls the perverse effects of the pandemic, the invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent energy crisis around the world, which have added to the consequences of climate change, with its heat waves, droughts and major fires that have devastated the European continent and other parts of the planet this summer. A combination that has affected the tourism sector, with very critical moments such as confinements and with a particular impact on the EU’s tourist islands.
Aware of this, the EU is committed to accelerating the objectives of the UN’s 2030 Agenda and is clear that “the only paths that lead us to the future are the green transition and the digital transformation”, which allow for a “more sustainable economy in its three dimensions: economic, social and environmental”.
For these reasons, today’s final declaration insists on the need to consider tourism as “a transversal economic activity, a key sector of the economy of a continent that is the world’s leading tourist destination, and it is therefore essential to declare tourism a Common Policy of the European Union in order to maintain this leadership”.
It also calls for “a new common tourism policy involving the creation of a European Tourism Agency” to promote and coordinate plans at European level. It also calls for priority to be given in European funds to Strategic Multinational Projects, “which affect several Member States, such as the one to be proposed by the Tourist Islands, which could affect half of the States of the European Union”.
The 1st Convention of Tourist Islands also advocates the promotion of partnership agreements “to finance tourism projects, especially in support of the European Tourist Islands and Outermost Regions, which are the hardest hit by the crisis”.
It also calls for “specific treatment for island and outermost territories in terms of transport and air and maritime connectivity, the provision of special funds for the protection of island territories and their biodiversity due to their special fragility, as well as the acceleration of the green and digital transition of the islands’ tourism model for the benefit of their communities”.
Action plan and strategic proposals and investments to be drafted by 2023
The participants also agreed to draw up an action plan and strategic investment proposals for 2023, “which should complement and optimise the implementation of existing strategies, setting targets in that year for climate change action in tourism, promoting the circular economy of tourism and the necessary infrastructure and measurement tools within a framework of common values”.
The declaration calls for a “holistic” approach to sustainable tourism management, which “values the heritage and identity of tourist islands, combats seasonality and ensures the well-being of communities”. This plan may include research, information exchange and strategic multinational projects to be implemented in the territory in partnership with the private sector and by applying for European funds. The ultimate goal is to place the tourist islands at the forefront of the fight against climate change in the EU.