The Malta Independent 5 December 2023, Tuesday
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'Connectivity, innovation, and digitization are crucial' – Tourism Minister

Saturday, 25 March 2017, 09:23 Last update: about 8 years ago

Connectivity, innovation, and digitization are crucial for European tourism international competitiveness, Maltese Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis has said.

He was participating in the Conference for Connecting Europe through Innovation, hosted by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the Office of the EU Parliament in Madrid.

Minister Zammit Lewis said that digitization is dominating all the facets of the Global Economy. Information and communication technology is no longer one sector in the European economy, but rather an encompassing platform upon which ideas, innovation, and industries emerge.


"The documents 'Tapping into the Benefits of the Digital Single Market' and 'Digitalisation and Collaborative Economy', are amongst the tourism priorities set by the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU which I presented to the European Parliament's Committee on Transport and Tourism," explained the Minister.

"Digitization is infiltrating all sectors and without the appropriate mind frame and tools we are losing our competitiveness with third countries, even though tourism is a major contributor to the economy of the European Union. It is for this reason that we must all work along the lines that the Commission has provided through the Digital Single Market Strategy," he said. 

"Connecting Europe through innovation depends primarily on providing online services, ensuring that Europe remains the world leader in the digital economy, assisting European companies to grow globally and citizens in their daily needs. From a tourism point of view, the implementation of the Digital Single Market enables the digital transformation of tourism for the benefit of both SMEs and tourists themselves."

He said that it is the most appropriate time to transform the European Union into a single market fit for the digital age, "tearing down regulatory walls and moving from 28 national markets to a unified market." 

Minister Zammit Lewis mentioned the three pillars supporting the Digital Single Market Strategy that have a direct impact on tourism. "The first pillar suggests improving accessibility to digital goods and services in order to transform the EU's digital world into a seamless and level market place for trade. Yet, "Many citizens remain reluctant about engaging in the range of online activities that could improve their daily lives," he said. 

"Preventing unjustified geo-blocking is one of the main targets. The new proposed regulation addresses the problem of customers not being able to buy goods and services from traders located in a different member state, or being discriminated in prices or sales conditions compared to nationals."

The second pillar underlined by Minister Zammit Lewis was the aim to create an environment where digital networks and services can prosper. "Presently, there are many opportunities arising and we must indeed strive to remain competitive and strong. The key element in this regard is that of increasing connectivity amongst EU member states and in rural places," the Minister said..

He explained that the tourism industry has undergone broad transformations, and digitization is becoming essential for bridging consumers and businesses, providing digital services and goods across Europe. "The development of European digital platforms can be achieved by delivering the Digital Single Market strategy, lightening the burden of regulation for small innovative businesses, and by encouraging ease of access to finance through the Capital Markets Union package."

The Tourism Minister pointed out that these issues, alongside connectivity, seasonality, blue growth and the long-term sustainability of the sector, will feature in a high-level conference organised by the Maltese Ministry for Tourism to be held next May.

"During this important event, I will bring together an extensive cross-section of European stakeholders to discuss the future of European tourism. I would like to take this opportunity to invite you all to attend and discuss these matters," added the Minister.

The third and final pillar stresses that all must work as a unified EU to foreshadow the international growth potential of the digital economy, especially for SMEs. "The possibilities offered by digitization are endless, particularly to research and the means of how knowledge is shared: all contributing to simplification, efficiency and innovation."

The Minister urged all member states to prepare for the future and to continue delivering an excellent experience for tourists and the tourism industry. He mentioned three actions that must be taken so that all this would be achieved: "cooperation and investment in the digital single market strategy, the creation of the right conditions for these small or medium businesses to flourish and fast action so that we will not be surpassed by our competitors".


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