Tourism development and security in the Danube area were the main themes of talks in Ruse, Bulgaria, on Friday between Romanian and Bulgaria officials, conducted in the presence of European Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Cretu and Romania’s Minister of Regional Development Vasile Dincu.
“Security has become one of our main concerns in our daily lives. Even this week, the European Union has witnessed yet another cruel terror incident. I believe you agree with me when I say that such terror actions cannot be eradicated overnight and they do not disappear on their own. The feelings of safety and security, or better said the lack thereof, have an impact on our entire lives, while at the same time affecting all economic activities, tourism included,” said Cretu.
She added that one in five Europeans live in the Danube region, which has become home to 111 million people.
“The EU strategy for the Danube region came to pass in 2011 precisely to capitalise on this shared potential and in order to offer the Danube countries a chance to pool up their forces. Inside this framework, tourism and security are key cooperation areas, but they are part of different priority axes of the strategy. That is why I am hailing today’s conference, which provides a joint approach of the two priorities. Tourism is of major importance to the EU: one in ten euros in the European Union’s Gross Domestic Product is generated by tourism, which is no surprise, given that 600 million people visit Europe each year, and 125 million of them visit the Danube region,” Cretu added.
She said international tourism is expected to grow very rapidly in the near future, which should not be neglected, given that three million new jobs could be created if the necessary conditions were secured for the development of tourism by providing adequate support; cohesion policy has a long tradition of supporting tourist activities.
“In 2007-2015, ten billion euros were earmarked for supporting tourism projects. I would give only one successful example: EuroVelo, a network of long bicycle tracks, more than 45,000 km long that connects and unite the entire European continent. It is understood that this European support will continue into the current financial framework, 2014-2020, so that the objectives of the tourist industry may be achieved. But the financial support of the EU for this sector is not enough,” Cretu explained.
She said that tourism, like any other economic activity, is currently facing unprecedented major challenges.
“Security is an increasingly more present challenge, or better said the lack thereof. Security plays a major part in the selection of holiday destinations. People want to spend their holidays in peace and full security. (…) Local authorities are the first place responsible for security, as they are closest to the places where risks may occur. (…) All these players should act together, in a coordinated manner. I believe the EU Strategy for the Danube Region brings added value, because it entails joint actions of countries inside and outside the Schengen Area,” said Cretu, adding that important steps have already been taken under projects already designed.
“People’s soul should be displayed when the identity of a region is considered that has its own specifics,” Dincu said in his turn. “There is a kind of spiritual infrastructure covering the Danube from Romania to Bulgaria. I think this is an excellent initiative and I hope our experts will find the best solutions to intensify ties and draw up pragmatic plans. We need to provide continuity to the space between Romania and Bulgaria very quickly (…) and one of the challenges taken up by our joint committee is to create a regional identity and brand, which does not exist right now. (…) Romania is one of the safest destinations,” said Dincu.
Bulgarian Tourism Minister Nicolina Angelkova said she is convinced the region will turn into a safe tourist area.
“Together with Romania, we coordinate priority axis 3, the Danube strategy. We want to thank Romania’s deputy prime minister for the efforts deployed to make the Danube region a more attractive area. I want to mention our efforts as well: Ruse has turned to be an important centre for the Danube Strategy, hosting the technical secretariat of axis 3, which allows us to intensify focus on tourism in the area. The Danube Strategy allows us to better know our cultural heritage and boost the number of tourists to this very important area. Tourism is an important economic pillar,” said Angelkova.
Ruse Mayor Plamen Stoylov pointed out that tourism generates ties between Romania and Bulgaria.
European Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Cretu, Romania’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Regional Development and Public Administration on Friday toured the border area between Romania and Bulgaria.
Commissioner Cretu: About 5,000 new tourism jobs to be created in current programming period
European Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Cretu estimates that some 5,000 new jobs will be created in the Romanian tourism sector in the 2014-2020 programing period and the number of tourists in the same interval will increase by 10,000.
“In Romania, under the Operational Program 2014 – 2020, under the axis for boosting local economies through the sustainable development of tourism, we attempt to make available 100 million euros, and our estimates are that the number of visitors to Romania will increase by 10,000 and that about 5,000 new jobs will be created in this sector compared with 2013. (…) In 2015, tourism contributed 10 percent to the EU GDP and supported directly or indirectly more than 25 million jobs across the EU. So it’s obvious that tourism is a driving force for economic growth and job creation, contributing also to cross-border cooperation. It is also very clear that tourism can be highly affected by security challenges which, regrettably, the EU is facing, as the feeling of insecurity has come to play an important role in the choice of travel destinations,” Cretu told a conference in Ruse, Bulgaria, on sustainability of tourism development and security in the Danube region.
According to her, it is clear that security is a prerequisite for tourism development.
“I still believe that it’s important that the Danube and the entire region are treated as a whole. (…) Our European funds will continue to support tourism in the two countries,” added Cretu.
In his turn, Deputy PM Vasile Dincu voiced appreciation for the results of the implementation units related to the cross-border program in both Romania and Bulgaria and gave assurances that Romania is one of the safest tourist destinations in Europe.
“In Romania, we have a law in force, regarding an integrated database on the movement of tourists in Romania, on tourist flows. We are integrators for several countries in the region for the combat of cyber-crime. The interior ministries of Romania and Bulgaria, their intelligence services are working very well together; they have been cooperating for a long time and there is a very good continuity in this area, we support each other,” said Dincu.
He also underscored that better infrastructure is necessary to link Romania to Bulgaria.