Susanne Kraus Winkler, President, HOTREC, explains what the key issues are for her organisation this year with regard to EU strategy.
Right now, there are quite a lot of different topics on the EU table, with which HOTREC is dealing. It starts with the ongoing shadow economy issue, then the revision of the waste framework directive, a future policy initiative to tackle the issue of trans-fats in food, the fitness check of the EU General Food Law (GFL) Regulation, a new proposal of the Directive: “Transparent and predictable working conditions in the EU” replacing the current Written Statement Directive, the general Data Protection regulation coming into force in May 2018, adopted conclusions on cross-border aspects in alcohol policy, the revision of the Directive on the energy performance of building, the Communication which sets-out the EU’s strategy on plastics, the free tap water discussion in restaurants, and the proposal for reform of VAT rates , only to mention a few.
But HOTREC is also dealing with the changes in our hospitality world. We have to understand that old role models of managing our hotels and restaurants as well as our teams and how we understand the needs of our guests might differ a lot from what we were used to. Most of the challenges we face, like sharing economy, digitalisation of distribution and communication as well as digitalisation of operational processes, over tourism in some destinations, a dramatic lack of skilled labour, transparency and political changes, which cause problems in surrounding regions or safety and security challenges in some areas, need solutions, which cannot be dealt only by the hospitality industry itself and not at all by the SMEs themselves. We need common solutions and even more intensive cooperation to manage the future of our industry, there won’t be quick or easy solutions.
…our Digital Task Force under the chair of Markus Luthe from IHA is still intensively working on unfair practices of OTAs and for a fair level playing field when it comes to rate parity all over Europe
Meanwhile, our Digital Task Force under the chair of Markus Luthe from IHA is still intensively working on unfair practices of OTAs and for a fair level playing field when it comes to rate parity all over Europe and not only in those countries, which could manage to get regulations in rate parity. HOTREC just launched the next digital distribution study and is closely watching the draft regulation on platforms from the Commission. We will also look intensively into restaurants this year. In addition, on the European Commission level the launch of the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum was announced. With the support of the European Parliament it will highlight key developments of blockchain technology, promote European actors and reinforce European engagement and the ECJ’s decision on the UBER case might need some more competition law activities about similar offers.
Diplomatic talks are continuing between the EU and the USA regarding the reciprocity of visa requirements. Where are we up to with this, and what is the position of HOTREC?
On 20 December 2017, the European Commission issued a report on the progress made towards achieving full visa reciprocity with Canada and the United States. HOTREC fully supports the Commission’s intention of continuing diplomatic negotiations with the US representatives, so that the visa waiver becomes fully applicable. Currently, travelers from the U.S. and Canada account for the largest percentage of all European arrivals. Arrivals from the two markets reached 30.3 million tourists. The economic impact that closing the doors to U.S citizens would have for tourism purposes needs to be taken into account, as well as the damage of the external relations between the EU and the U.S. With regard to the U.S., contacts at political and technical level have intensified with the objective of suppressing the visa requirement to citizens coming from Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania to enter the U.S. Although the visa reciprocity mechanism has proved to be useful in achieving full visa reciprocity with third countries, as the number of non-reciprocity countries has been considerable reduced (only U.S. still does not present the full visa-free regime towards citizens of all EU Member States). The Commission is not considering temporarily suspending the visa exemption for U.S. citizens, due to the diplomatic and economic consequences this would bring. What are the next steps? The Commission will continue working closely with the European Parliament and the Council on the way forward to reach full visa reciprocity.
What is your position on visa policy in general?
On January 2018, the European Commission issued a road map on visa policy. The aim of the Commission now is to issue another Visa Code recast, focusing on three points: introduction of short-term measures to deal with short-term challenges; put visa policy in the context of the modernisation of border management tools (such as ETIAS – the European Travel Information and Authorisation System; or EES – the Entry-Exit system), as well as to launch the debate on further modernisation of the visa policy (e.g. digitalisation, online applications). HOTREC fully supports measures that help third county nationals to obtain a visa to enter the EU without too many administrative and economic burdens, while fully complying with security measures.
How important is security going forward and what is your strategy in this respect?
The hospitality sector is well aware of the risks related to the security of public spaces and is part of the UNWTO Task Force on Tourism and Security and will contribute to the work of the Commission and the EU Operators’ Forum. HOTREC will continue to put at the disposal of its members publicly available knowledge and existing best practice across Europe and beyond. It is important to bear in mind the differences in potentials of the various market players, respective to their nature and their size, so that all can be helped in an appropriate manner to make public spaces safer.