The NECSTouR Annual General Meeting 2023 in Paris, France brought together regional tourism leaders from across Europe to collaborate on making tourism a catalyst for prosperous and sustainable communities.
Paris, France – The NECSTouR Annual General Meeting 2023 took place on June 6th and 7th at the Île-de-France Regional Council in Saint-Ouen-sur-Seine, Paris, bringing together more than 30 regional tourism leaders from across Europe. The event aimed to foster collaboration and share strategies to make tourism a catalyst for prosperous and sustainable communities. During the first day, NECSTouR members focused on co-creating the NECSTouR 2030 pathway. Under the theme of “Reset: A New Agenda for 2030 Tourism,” the conference focused on addressing the challenges faced by the tourism sector and exploring innovative solutions for a sustainable and resilient future.
The conference commenced with an opening session featuring notable individuals from the tourism industry. Ms. Hamida Rezeg, Vice-President in charge of Tourism for the Île-de-France Region, delivered welcoming remarks, emphasizing the importance of collaborative efforts in revitalizing the tourism sector. She set the stage for discussions on regenerative tourism and sustainable practices.
Mr. Peter De Wilde, CEO of Visit Flanders and President of NECSTouR, also addressed the audience, highlighting the people-centric nature of the tourism business. He emphasized the need to prioritize human connections, and impactful experiences and acknowledged the challenges involved in transitioning towards sustainable tourism.
A keynote speech by Ms. Marie Allantaz, a consultant, speaker, and tourism expert, provided insights into the state of the tourism sector following the health crisis and the impact of the war in Ukraine. She highlighted the shift from “tourism without tourists” to “tourism without staff” and stressed the necessity of adopting a panoramic approach to address the evolving boundaries between daily life, leisure, and tourism. Her speech set the tone for discussions on the future of tourism in Europe.
One of the panel discussions revolved around new models for tourism, focusing on economically profitable and resilient tourism ecosystems. Ms. Valentina Superti, Director for Tourism, Proximity, and Digitalization in DG GROW of the European Commission, presented the new European tourism agenda for 2030. The agenda aims to support and protect the sector through governance, green and digital transition, skills development, sector resilience, and inclusion. This presentation highlighted the importance of a holistic approach to sustainability and digitalization in the tourism industry.
Ms. Annick Austoni, Head of the Tourism Department for the Île-de-France Region, shared insights into the region’s new tourism and leisure development scheme (SRDTL). The scheme focuses on implementing a new marketing strategy, embracing ecological transition, and attracting sporting events to enhance the sector’s resilience and visitor experience. This presentation showcased the regional efforts towards sustainable tourism and community engagement.
Dr. Aisling Ward, a Senior Lecturer and Researcher in Regenerative Tourism at Munster Technological University, emphasized the significance of skills development and community-based tourism for sector regeneration. Mr. Laurent Barthélémy, President of the Training Commission at the UMIH and Vice-president of the National Joint Employment Committee Hôtels-Cafés-Restaurants, shed light on the digitalization needs of the hotel ecosystem and stressed the importance of coordination and collaboration among stakeholders. These presentations highlighted the importance of human capital and collaboration in driving sustainable tourism.
Sustainable mobility in tourism was another crucial topic discussed during the conference. Dr. Xavier Font, Professor of Sustainability Marketing at the University of Surrey, highlighted the need to reshape the tourism narrative and implement cost-benefit analyses for tourism policies. Mr. Robert Thaler, Head of Division Active Mobility and Mobility Management at the Austrian Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation, and Technology, presented the Pan European Program (PEP) Partnership on Sustainable Tourism Mobility, underlining the significance of coordination at European, regional, and local levels. These discussions emphasized the importance of sustainable transportation and its contribution to the overall sustainability of the tourism sector.
The NECSTouR Annual General Meeting 2023 also provided a platform for new members to join the network. Regions such as Kotka-Hamina, Centre-Val de Loire, Waterland-Friesland, Skåne, and Slovenia, as well as associated members like the Hellenic Institute of Transport, Hellenic Mediterranean University, and Breda University, were welcomed into the NECSTouR community. The expansion of the network showcased the growing interest and commitment of various European regions and organizations towards sustainable tourism.
In addition to plenary sessions and panel discussions, the conference featured workshops that delved deeper into specific topics. The workshops focused on envisioning tourism in 2030 and the NECSTouR 2030 pathway. One workshop explored the importance of measuring sustainable tourism at the NUTS 2 level, drawing insights from Spanish cases and highlighting the interconnectedness among European countries. This workshop emphasized the role of data-driven decision-making and collaboration in fostering sound tourism governance.
Another workshop centred on the regenerative tourism framework, discussing practical applications and case studies. Experts shared their experiences and best practices, encouraging participants to embrace a holistic approach to tourism development that goes beyond sustainability. This workshop aimed to inspire regenerative tourism governance across regions, empowering participants to create destinations that leave a positive impact on the environment and communities.
The Members Day concluded with closing remarks from Ms. Marie Hélène Pradines, Head of Unit Tourism at the European Commission, and Mr. Peter De Wilde, President of NECSTouR. They reiterated the significance of data, skills development, and collaboration in shaping the future of tourism. They emphasized the need for collective action and a coordinated approach to achieve the goals outlined in the NECSTouR 2030 pathway.
The NECSTouR Annual General Meeting 2023 served as a platform for knowledge sharing, collaboration, and inspiration in driving tourism that benefits both visitors and residents. With its focus on regenerative tourism and sustainable practices, the conference showcased the commitment of NECSTouR and its members to create flourishing communities through responsible tourism. As the event concluded, the participants left with renewed energy and a shared vision for a sustainable and prosperous future for European tourism.
Next year’s appointment is going to be in Swedish Lapland which will host the 2024 NECSTouR Annual General Meeting. The community of policy-makers from 45 regional authorities from 20 European countries will gather in Lulea to deepen the ambitious sustainable development paradigm that Swedish Lapland has for the Arctic region and capitalise it in the various territories around Europe.
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