Tourism lobby should get as cranky as the farming representatives

Up to 13m people work in tourism and sector contributes €100bn more than agriculture

Minister for Tourism Shane Ross is responsible for a sector tacked on to an already burgeoning portfolio. Photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times

Minister for Tourism Shane Ross is responsible for a sector tacked on to an already burgeoning portfolio. Photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times

 

Tourism industry representatives often leer enviously at lobbyists for the agriculture sector and the depth of their influence on politics.

Ministers for agriculture are always full cabinet members in European Union countries, while the sector has its own dedicated directorate at the European Commission under Irish politician, commissioner Phil Hogan.

The sector, which is also supported by a lavish system of public subsidies, would win gold at the Olympics of lobbying. Agriculture seems to have a seat at every political table, not just the top one.

Tourism, on the other hand, is far less embedded in the European body politic, despite rivalling and arguably exceeding agriculture in economic importance.

It is believed tourism directly employs about 13 million people and some estimate it contributes €550 billion to European GDP. That is more than the agriculture sector, the output of which is about €100 billion lower.

In this State ministerial responsibility for tourism is tacked on to the already burgeoning portfolio of Shane Ross, who also has responsibility for transport and sport.

In the European Commission, ostensible responsibility for tourism is shoe-horned into its directorate for the internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and SMEs. In practice, responsibilty for several of the constituent parts of the tourism industry fall between a swathe of directorates.

On Monday, Hotrec, the European umbrella group for the hospitality industry, called for tourism, the neglected economic child of the European economy, to get its own directorate and commissioner.

It is perhaps alluring to the industry ’s leaders to believe that if only it could get its own commissioner and directorate, the sector’s obvious economic importance would finally be recognised and all would be well.

In reality, the sector’s lobbyists would be better off focusing their energies on making themselves a nuisance to as wide a range of commissioners as possible. Agriculture’s lobbyists are relentless and ruthless; tourism’s lobbyists are sometimes too measured for their own good.

In Brussels, crankiness is often rewarded.

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