Interview with Ivan Bartoš, Minister of Regional Development and Deputy Prime Minister for Digitalization of the Czech Republic
1. On 1 July 2022, the Czech Republic took over the Presidency of the Council of the EU. Could you tell our readers more about the main priorities of the Czech Presidency concerning the European tourism and hospitality sector?
The Czech Presidency (CZ PRES) will concentrate on issues which will help the sector recover from the pandemic in order to guarantee sustainability, resilience, digitalization and green transition of the sector. We will continue the debate on the European agenda for tourism 2030, which aims to cover all these issues. We will focus on the preparation of legal regulation of short-term rentals in order to provide more transparency and safeguard a level playing field in accommodation services. The European Tourism forum (ETF) will be the highlight of events planned to be organized within CZ PRES. Topics such as protection of travellers on package tours, short-term rentals, sustainability of tourism and its digitalization are going to be discussed. Targeted marketing activities that help overcome the significant decrease in tourism flows will be the topic of ETF as well.
2. After Covid-19, companies in our sector continue facing considerable difficulties – from skill shortages to a high risk of insolvency. The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the following rise in energy and food prices are putting the survival of these businesses even more on the line. Taking these challenges into account, what are your views on the recovery of European tourism and hospitality?
Firstly, I would like to say that according to the data available so far, European tourism is currently experiencing a recovery. We have seen a gradual opening up of borders and the lifting of COVID restrictions. This, in my opinion, is proof of the resilience of the tourism ecosystem in Europe. I would like to thank and congratulate all the hard-working professionals in the tourism sector who have contributed to the recovery. At the same time, I firmly hope that regardless of current and future challenges, the strong recovery will continue.
It is very difficult to predict the development of tourism in Europe as it will depend on a number of variables. First of all, it will depend on whether we can get through this autumn and winter without another significant wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions. Of course, the war in Ukraine is a very serious threat that is affecting international tourism throughout Europe and is threatening Europe’s image as a safe destination. Its economic and environmental impact is an unprecedented challenge for the tourism services sector. However, I still believe that it is absolutely crucial that we are able to operate without further covid-related closures and restrictions on travel. If it is possible to travel without restrictions, I am sure that tourism will gradually return to being one of the dynamic and thriving sectors of the European economy.
3. Looking to the future, what are your key messages for the European hospitality industry?
The key message is to pay attention to trends (greening, digitalization etc.) and listen to what clients want. The COVID-19 pandemic has hastened the onset of some long-standing trends, notably the push to greening and increasing the sustainability of the tourism sector, the move away from mass activities and group travel and towards individuality, and the maximum emphasis on digitalization of communication and services in the tourism industry. I firmly believe that innovation is the key to future success. I am fully confident that the European tourism sector is absolutely capable of delivering these innovations. Another important trend is sustainable mobility, and active tourism, such as cycling or hiking. In this respect, the Czech Republic, for example, has a competitive advantage in its rich network of marked hiking trails (including wheelchair-accessible trails), the construction and maintenance of which have long been the focus of the Czech Tourist Club.