In 2020 Galicia will host a meeting of the Committee of the Regions on the Way of St James as a different model of tourism in Europe

Galicia’s proposal was chosen ahead of the German candidacy of Wismar by a wide margin of votes in the final decision of the members of the CoR in the Committee’s Commission of Natural Resources’ (NAT) fourth meeting this year

The NAT’s future event, to be held in 2020 in Santiago de Compostela, will consist of a conference on the possible ways of managing sustainable tourism in the EU and a meeting between regional and local representatives of the CoR

At today’s meeting of the NAT there was also a general debate on the consequences of mass tourism in Europe and its impact on regional and local communities in Europe

Brussels, 16 September 2019

In 2020, Galicia will host a meeting of the Committee of the Regions on the Way of Saint James as a different tourism model in Europe. This resulted from a vote that took place today in Brussels, in which Galicia was competing against a proposal by the German city of Wismar, capital of North-West Mecklenburg. After a general vote fraught with uncertainty, the members of the CoR finally chose Galicia, which will highlight the European character of our community as the final stage of the Way of Saint James and strengthen ties within the European Union, based on the values of solidarity and harmony.

Jesús Gamallo, the managing director of Foreign Affairs and EU Relations announced that the Galician proposal of external activities will consist of a meeting of the CoR’s members, along with a conference on the possible models of sustainable tourism in the EU, with the Camino de Santiago as a representative case within this economic sector. Both of these activities are scheduled to take place during the first half of 2020 in Santiago de Compostela. Gamallo contended the relevance of the Galician proposal before the other European local and regional representatives, as it directly relates to the work programme and policy priorities of the NAT and of the Committee of the Regions itself regarding the challenge of sustainable tourism.

For the Galician Government, the Way of Saint James sets a good example for other European regions and cities searching for a tourism model that can combine economic development and competitiveness with the sustainability of natural resources and heritage, functioning as the structuring element for regional culture and social and geographic cohesion. In addition, the director general also stressed that the development of new models of tourism must go hand in hand with progressive digitalisation and innovation, in order to achieve an attractive, competitive and sustainable touristic offer.

In this vein, the Xunta de Galicia will organise the NAT meeting on the Way of Saint James in 2020 and on other possible avenues for sustainable tourism in the cities and regions of the EU, as a prelude to the 2021 Xacobeo project. Within two years, the 2021 Xacobeo will celebrate the Jacobean Holy Year in Galicia to, amongst other things, highlight and promote the cultural, natural, human and business wealth of the Way of Saint James; publicise the cultural Jacobean route’s heritage; promote the revitalisation of rural areas crossed by the Way; and invite dialogue on this great European cultural route.

Debate on the current state of the tourism sector in the European Union
The debate, which opened the fourth annual meeting of the NAT, is entitled ‘Tourism: new trends, challenges and solutions’. It was introduced by the chairman of the NAT, Finnish politician Ossi Martikainen. Various members of the CoR, representatives of the Directorate General (DG GROW) of the European Commission and the president of the Network of European Regions for Competitive and Sustainable Tourism (NECSTouR) of which Galicia is a part, also participated.

This general debate on European tourism served as a focal point for the existing worry in both regional and local EU administrations as well as in the European Committee of the Regions itself about the widespread increase of European tourism. Specifically, worry about the significant pressure placed on infrastructure, natural resources and capacity of local communities to welcome, year after year, millions of international tourists. This situation is leading to some of the most popular European destinations (Venice, Bruges, Dubrovnik…) to increasingly take measures to protect their landscapes, monuments and local populations.

For this reason, NAT decided to hold this debate in order to discuss the question of sustainability in the European tourism industry and its impact on local communities and regional authorities across the EU. This area of work of the European Committee of the Regions regarding the possible forms of sustainable tourism ties in with a document published by the EU Council in May that indicates that tourism is one of the core sectors of the European economy, with an increasingly positive impact on economic growth, regional development and employment across Europe. This is because the tourism sector represents close to 10% of the Union’s GDP and 12 million jobs. In fact, the European Union is the first tourist destination in the world, with a share of over 40% of the world market in 2018.

The European Committee of the Regions’ NAT Commission
In this mandate, Galicia participates both in the Committee on Natural Resources (NAT) as well as the European Committee of the Regions’ Commission for Citizenship, Governance, Institutional and External Affairs (CIVEX). CoR’s NAT addresses topics such as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), rural development, forestry, food production, the common fisheries policy or maritime affairs policy, among other topics.

The Committee of the Regions is the consultative assembly in which local and regional authorities in the European Union are represented. The representative member of the Autonomous Community of Galicia is the president of the Xunta de Galicia, while the post of alternate member is held by the director general of Foreign Affairs and EU Relations.

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