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2.35 However, Phil Bennion MEP took a more positive view, asserting that ‘co-ordination endeavours at EU level can help the UK fulfil its ambitions, though limited to non-legislative activities such as marketing and information sharing’.13
2.36 There was disagreement between contributors about the effectiveness of specific EU measures under the tourism competence. Phil Bennion MEP again saw reasons for optimism. Unlike VisitBritain and VisitEngland, Phil Bennion MEP believed the VTO will soon facilitate the valuable acquisition and sharing of insights on tourism, noting that ‘the platform will include a collection of best practices that are to serve as a toolbox for future UK policy initiatives’.14 The Virtual Tourism Observatory (VTO) In 2010 the Commission announced the implementation of a VTO to provide socio-economic data on Tourism across Europe. The VTO is intended to become the central data reference point for European policy-makers. The UK’s Office of National Statistics won the VTO contract to manage this project.
2.37 Phil Bennion MEP also saw benefit in the EU’s first legislative proposal on tourism to create a voluntary European Tourism Label for Quality which he argued would help increase the competiveness of European tourism against non-EU markets.15
2.38 However, the BHA remained to be convinced, fearing it may lead to greater bureaucratic imposition on Member States, while the European Tour Operators Association warned ‘the current trend towards the standardisation of services may be misguided’.16
2.39 The European Tour Operators Association also believed it was too early to tell whether initiatives such as the CALYPSO: Low Season Tourism Initiative has brought benefits, but suggests the EU should devote greater energy to helping the sector evolve products that suit emerging markets.
Phil Bennion MEP, submission of evidence.
2.40 For nine contributors the highly competitive nature of the tourist industry – with Member States in direct competition for visitors, both from inside and outside Europe – was a major challenge to EU activity benefiting the UK national interest. In 2012, the UK was ranked eight in the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) league tables for international tourism.17 More than half of the countries ranked higher than the UK were European Member States.
United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) The information contained in this text box is public source information from UNWTO.
This is the United Nations agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism. As the leading international organisation in the field of tourism, UNWTO promotes tourism as a driver of economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability and offers leadership and support to the sector in advancing knowledge and tourism policies worldwide. UNWTO’s membership includes 156 countries, six Associate Members and over 400 Affiliate Members representing the private sector, educational institutions, tourism associations and local tourism authorities.18
2.41 While none of the contributors suggested there should be no EU co-operation in relation to tourism, this highly competitive market makes consideration of the value of co-ordinated EU level action finely balanced.
The EU Member States are in direct competition with each other for inbound visitors.
EU co-operation initiatives in tourism must recognise this competition. This is not to say there is no scope for co-operation. Visit Britain and Visit England.
2.42 The question of whether the UK would benefit from EU attempts to market Europe as a destination to the rest of world occupied a number of contributors. The European Tourist Operators Association was perhaps the most bullish of our contributors, ‘to the extent that the EU can catalyse interest in “brand Europe” that is welcome. “Europe” is seen as a destination and there is no reason why it should not have a voice alongside national voices. The EU’s activities related to tourism do not, in our view, prejudice the efforts of [National Tourism Organisations]’.
2.43 Visit Britain and Visit England, in their joint submission, also recognised this argument:
‘Figures from ONS show that 19% of visitors to Britain come as part of a multi-country trip. For some key long-haul markets such as China and Australia, Britain is an attractive destination to include as part of a multi-country European itinerary’.
2.44 However, they make the point that there are a number of factors that make the UK different from other Member States, including the existing strength of our ‘brand’, our visa arrangements, and our island status. In their view, this means that the UK is unlikely to benefit from an increase in EU action to the same extent as other EU states, with weaker
tourism markets, who are also our competitors:
Robust evaluation has shown that the cross-Government GREAT campaign has been successful building Britain’s image overseas […] Whilst common European branding or marketing might be appealing to accession countries or the smaller states of Europe, we would likely gain minimal benefit. Visit Britain and Visit England.
Please see information taken from UNWTO, Tourism Highlights, (2013). See: mkt.unwto.org/en/highlights, accessed on 3 February 2014.
Please see information taken from UNWTO, www.unwto.org, accessed on 3 February 2014.
34 Review of the Balance of Competences between the United Kingdom and the European Union: Culture, Tourism and Sport The GREAT Campaign The GREAT campaign – the first ever integrated Government campaign – is promoting Britain in key markets around the world and has already helped boost the economy by £1bn.
2.45 The BHA was also sceptical: ‘is there a “distinctive European brand”? This seems doubtful’. However, the BHA also recognised that, due to the supporting nature of the competence, it remained a national decision as to whether to participate in such EU programmes. The danger here of course was that, while we are not participating, our competing Member States may be getting benefits. This might suggest that the UK national interest would be better served if these programmes did not exist.
2.46 However, no other contributors went that far. Phil Bennion MEP noted that ‘marketing Europe as one destination encompassing highly diverse countries would generate a new competitive model. Such a branding programme could harness both Europe’s similarities and differences. Selling Europe as a unified product could increase the attractiveness of EU destinations to international tourists whilst recognising Europe’s diversity could allow the product to be easily tailored to each market […] these promotional efforts would enhance UK competitiveness in this sector’.19
2.47 It was perhaps this complexity, and an agreed need for national flexibility, that led those contributors who expressed a view to conclude that a supporting competence in tourism was the right level. While some contributors, notably the European Tour Operators Association and Phil Bennion MEP, were positive about the potential for the EU to increase activity under this competence, several of the British based organisations who responded
were more cautious:
I also think it important that tourism remains an EU supporting competence to allow actions to be taken independently at localised levels rather than being pressured to follow a more generalised blueprint. Institute for Tourism Research, University of Bedfordshire.
We are concerned that the tourism competence might lead to increased regulation of what is already a heavily regulated sector. BHA.
A number of geo-political factors […] mean that we do not benefit from current EU tourism action to the same extent as our competitors, nor would we benefit from any considerable increase in EU action. Visit Britain and Visit England.
2.48 As with tourism, the EU’s specific competence in relation to sport dates back only to TFEU and no legislative or regulatory measures have yet been adopted.
2.49 Professional sport is also a complex industry which is impacted by EU activity across a range of competences outside the scope of this report. In particular, contributors stressed the impact of EU competences in relation to the Single Market and State aid.
Phil Bennion MEP, submission of evidence.
Chapter 2: Impact on the National Interest 35
2.50 Issues relating to the free movement of persons, the single market for services and cohesion (including State aid) will be dealt with in other Balance of Competences reports.20 Evidence submitted to this report relevant to those reports has been forwarded to the authoring department.
2.51 A number of contributors also referred to the potential for the new competence for sport to drive greater coherence in the EU’s application of its wider competence to the sports sector. These issues will be considered in Chapter 3.
2.52 Unlike tourism, sport also comprises a large grassroots and amateur movement, and sports contributors (professional and amateur alike) were more unequivocal in their view that the EU’s new specific competence in relation to sport was a positive development for both professional and grassroots sport in the UK.
The Premier League believes that the European Union has played a positive role since the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, and indeed before, in promoting the social and educational functions of sports […] This is where there is clear added value for an EU intervention. The Premier League.
The adoption of [the sports competence] raised expectations that the EU would treat sport more sympathetically and it would be able to respond in a more coherent manner to a number of threats and challenges facing both modern sport and Member States. Professor Richard Parrish, Edge Hill University.
2.53 In particular, unlike the majority of those contributors who commented on tourism, sports contributors noted early signs of a positive impact the new competence was asserting, and the strong role played by the UK.
The implementation of the EU Work Plan has led to a positive outcome. Indeed, we consider that setting up expert groups… helped to improve the dialogue between the EU institutions, the Member States representatives and sports organisations.
The Premier League.
The overarching priorities of the work plan are the right ones. Welsh Government.
The UK Government should be congratulated on its proactive work in ensuring that each of the working groups had UK representation and many are chaired by UK representatives. The Football Association.
Not only is the UK extremely well represented through its three chairmanships of these groups, but they have operated in a more effective manner than the previous incarnations… the quality of the recommendations has been generally high. If the EU can start to implement some of these recommendations then the sports movement in Europe will be stronger for it. Sport and Recreation Alliance.
UK Chaired Expert Groups Of the six EU Expert Groups on sport, the UK chairs three: Good Governance in Sport;
Sustainable Financing of Sport; and Education and Training in Sport. These groups aim to produce recommendations that will guide the action of sports organisations across the EU, taking into account the evidence and good practice derived from projects funded through the 2011 Preparatory Actions.
HMG, Review of The Balance of Competences Between the UK and the EU, Single Market: Services, published later in the review. HMG, Review of The Balance of Competences Between the UK and the EU, Cohesion, published later in the review.
36 Review of the Balance of Competences between the United Kingdom and the European Union: Culture, Tourism and Sport
2.54 Two of the contributors highlighted new opportunities for learning and sharing best
practice the competence for sport has brought:
Scottish delegates have been able to participate and exchange learning with senior colleagues across the EU […] this has brought access to evidence of policy implementation for sport and physical activity in a range of other EU countries that would not otherwise have occurred. Scottish Government.
The sports competence strengthens political co-operation between the Member States and contributes to a better shared understanding of the problems facing both sport and Member States, and an awareness of potential solutions. Professor Richard Parrish, Edge Hill University.
2.55 The inclusion of a funding programme for sport in the Erasmus Plus programme was also
welcomed by contributors:
The Welsh Government welcomes the new sports sub-programme within Erasmus Plus and is pleased it will prioritise grassroots sport. Welsh Government.
2.56 For the Sport and Recreation Alliance, the primary benefit of the new competence for sport is ‘that EU funding can be used to create new networks and deliver larger projects’.
However, the Alliance also warned that ‘application and auditing processes are extremely bureaucratic’, and that the EU should focus on ‘fewer projects and removing the need for them to have at least five Member States represented’ to ensure a more effective use of resources. The Alliance also accused the EU of having a preoccupation with professional sport, at the expense of grassroots, with the majority of EU engagement with the sector focussed on the largest organisations.
2.57 The Rugby Football League was more specific and characterised the EU as having a preoccupation with professional football at the expense of other sports.
2.58 All of the contributors who expressed a view concluded that the supporting competence for sport was appropriate, and while there were calls for greater activity under this
competence by some, none believed the competence should be extended:
We believe that the current balance of competences in the field of sport is the correct one to support the continued success of the Premier League and other UK sports organisations in the international arena. The Premier League.