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Transport and tourism hand in hand towards sustainability

Our planet is literally currently burning. While the summer season has started some weeks ago, the TV reports remind us what we are facing: a climate emergency. The massive fires in Greece are unfortunately not exceptional. We have been used to seeing those sorts of videos over the last years. The EU has clear goals. It indeed must comply with carbon neutrality.

The tourism stakeholders we have met in Italy during the ‘transport and tourism’ EP committee study visit in Italy from 24 to 26 July have confirmed what we have been underlying for a while: the sector needs to be fully involved in the ecological transition and it faces significant stakes with this regard. 

As a quick reminder, tourism is one of the main sectors across the European Union. It indeed accounts for 27 million workers and for 10% of the EU GDP. According to the last figures mentioned by the UN World Tourism Organisation, tourism accounts for 8% of the GHG emissions.

And the tourism sector is of course linked with most of the economic and social sectors. This is why both transport and tourism are gathered in the same EP committee, when it comes to the EU institutions. Tourism means travelling and travelling means transport, which accounts for about 25% of the EU CO2 emissions and which is the only sector whom emissions have increased during the last 30 years.

Making transport more sustainable will make tourism more sustainable

While dozens of millions of people are travelling across the EU every summer, and will keep on being keen on travelling over the upcoming years and decades, we must implement policies and measures to decarbonise transport.  

Although this shift is too slow, we are advancing in the right directions. The EP and the Council of the EU have indeed decided to ban the commercialisation of new internal combustion engine vehicles by 2035. This is a clear move towards the ecological transition of the road transport sector and the negotiators are now working on the targets for the heavy-duty vehicles, including buses and coaches. 

The colegislators have also agreed on the deployment of alternative fuel infrastructures across the EU. The EU ports and airports will soon be required to set up electric points to charge alternative fuelled boats and planes (for example in Genoa port), as well as the EU roads will also be equipped with electric stations in the future. 

And we will start working on the rail capacity rules to make rail transport as efficient as possible. 

Those legislative developments involve of the transport modes and then all the transport modes used for tourism purposes. 

And together with this legislative process, initiatives have been implemented or fostered during the last year to support rail transport (the greenest transport mode for long journeys), especially on night trains. 

Measures have therefore been being implemented. But again, the transition is too slow. There is no B planet and this transition must be implemented now, not in ten years. All our efforts in the transport sector will be favourable for the transition of the tourism sector and I sincerely call all the lawmakers and stakeholders to act swiftly and promptly. 

Making train affordable for a paradigm shift

That being said, there is also a need to reinvent tourism. It is not about preventing the people to travel, not at all. I do not support any mechanism which can deprive anyone from fundamental freedoms. 

I however rather support initiatives which could foster ecofriendly tourism, also by creating a demand for such tourism.

It is highly possible to discover wonders across the European Union, there is no need to travel to the opposite side of the World. And travelling across the EU is possible by train, the cleanest transport mode.

Millions of people are keen on travelling by train. It is practical and it is part of the experience. But one of the main reasons why people do not travel by train is about affordability. 

Thinking about the few euros we should spent to fly from Porto to Helsinki, while Paris-Brussels by train could be five or ten times more expensive makes absolutely no sense given the climate and environmental cost.

This is why the German experience implemented last year to provide the citizens with the possibility to purchase a cheap train ticket to travel unlimitedly across the country, which has resulted in very interesting results, should be replicated or seen with a close attention. 

After having a look at the outcomes of such an initiative, I have launched a petition in France to set up a similar mechanism. It will definitely foster mobility, especially for those who cannot afford journeys, as well as it will surely result in a modal shift for many citizens.

And more broadly, the public authorities should incentivise more train journeys, while a kerosene tax should be established to reflect the real costs of aviation. Rebalancing prices will foster rail transport, as well as it will surely create a significant paradigm shift for the tourism sector. Regional and local tourism could thus benefit from that change and a whole ecosystem could emerge. 

This is what I suggest for the future of transport and tourism, as one of the solutions to make tourism sustainable.

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