At the end of May, the European Commission unveiled the long-awaited EU Recovery Plan, Next Generation EU, with an unprecedented €750 billion backing. A mixture of grants and loans will be available for EU countries to finance their recovery, as well as several EU programmes being strengthened. Tourism and recreation are mentioned as the sectors most affected by COVID-19 and will be prioritised. The focus is on achieving a green and digital recovery.
European Boating Industry (EBI), on behalf of the European recreational boating industry welcomes the EU Recovery Plan. It calls for national and EU investment programmes to incorporate the particularities of the boating and nautical tourism industry and ensure that investment is provided for a green and digital transition. This can also allow nautical tourism to play a strong role in developing a more sustainable tourism and strengthen European regions long-term.
In its position paper reacting to the Recovery Plan, EBI presents recommendations to ensure survival of companies and for the green and digital transition to realise its potential for boating and nautical tourism. EBI calls for specific recognition and support for investment needs of the industry within national recovery plans and EU programmes. This requires a clearer differentiation between the needs and infrastructure of for maritime transport and recreational boating. EBI also supports the European Parliament’s call for a dedicated budget line for tourism in the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework.
EBI also provides its suggestions for specific investment priorities for the boating and nautical tourism industry as an ecosystem belonging to tourism and the maritime sector. These include the digital and green transformation of marinas, development of local and regional nautical tourism infrastructure, research and innovation as well as other concrete investment areas. This needs to be accompanied by the promotion of regional and European nautical tourism, which has substantial potential given the given the relative ease of implementing social distancing rules, renewed consumer interest in outdoor tourism and potential for development of regional tourism opportunities.
The BlueGeneration project (in which EBI is a partner) operates a dedicated job and training platform for the blue economy, which includes boat-building and nautical tourism. It can be used free of charge for companies wishing to advertise their job or training offers. It will be promoted to over 8000 young people every year in meetings and school visits. The platform can be accessed here: https://bluegeneration.careers/
The boating industry (production of boats, equipment, trade, services) and nautical tourism sector (marinas, boat charter/hire in coastal and inland waters, water sports) is made up of 32,000 companies, over 95% of which are SMEs. They employ 280,000 people directly with thousands more along the supply chains. European regions that are coastal, peripheral, islands as well as those with inland waterways and lakes largely rely on the industry. Around 48 million EU citizens regularly enjoy boating and waters ports, making it an attractive leisure pursuit.
As the impact of COVID-19 has been substantial with production sites temporarily closing or reducing their output and tourism activities severely impacted by restrictions and border closures, this paper
1. provides concrete recommendations for policymakers to support the survival of SMEs
2. presents valuable opportunities for a green and digital recovery, while supporting sustainable tourism, and
3. proposes to reduce bureaucracy for a fast-track recovery of the sector.
“Coastal, maritime and inland waterway tourism, […] is present is many EU regions and is creating innovative, localised tourism offers for off-season business and recreation opportunities.” - Commission Communication on Tourism and transport in 2020 and beyond
Impact from COVID-19 is particularly high due to the seasonal nature of the sector and a short period of positive cash flow. According to EBI estimates, the revenue losses for 2020 could be up to 50% for parts of the ecosystem at European level, with variations between countries. This was also acknowledged by the European Commission in its proposal for the EU-wide recovery instrument, Next Generation EU, outlining that tourism is one of the hardest hit sectors. The European Commission indicated that tourism could see at least a 70% drop in turnover in the second quarter of 2020 and estimates that 161 billion euros is needed in direct investment in tourism. Additionally, the effect of GDP and consumer confidence decline will also have an impact in the coming years that needs to be anticipated.
European Boating Industry (EBI) as the voice of the industry in Europe welcomes the European Commission’s recovery plan Next Generation EU. With this paper, the sector would like to emphasise its particularities that should be considered and present opportunities for a green and digital recovery and outline the sector’s contribution to support a more sustainable tourism.
2. Green and digital transition
Given the importance of a pristine marine environment for boating and its attractiveness, the sector has developed a proactive approach to environmental sustainability. This is a good basis for further investment to green a sector that offers consumers the opportunity to experience and understand the value of the environment. On the digital transition, there is still substantial scope to integrate key trends such as connectivity, digital infrastructure and the Internet of Things, as well as platforms to automatise customer interaction that is crucial in the context of COVID-19. A well-managed recovery can also address over-tourism with nautical tourism contributing to a move from mass tourism to sustainable tourism. This is a key contribution to a sustainable development of the blue economy. Nautical tourism holds added value in the context of COVID-19 given the relative ease of implementing social distancing rules and the development of increasingly popular regional tourism opportunities.
“The Commission will promote a transition toward a more sustainable model of coastal and maritime tourism, as part of its strategic approach for a sustainable blue economy.” - Commission Communication on Tourism and transport in 2020 and beyond
Given the large proportion of SMEs in the industry and the expected drop in investment, simple and ready-to-use recovery investment is needed. Investment in nautical tourism infrastructure presents challenges, due to the financial sector’s reluctance to invest in the sector, worsened by the current long process for obtaining permits (>5 years). In areas with sufficient infrastructure, the focus should be on renovating rather than building new infrastructure.
Marina certification: There are several renowned “clean marina” schemes, such as Blue Flag, Gold Anchor, Blue Star Marina. In France, for instance, the "Clean Harbour Guidelines" provide such a certification. By January 2019, more than 90% of marinas in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur were committed to its certification process.
A shift towards sustainable tourism
This needs to be accompanied by a dedicated approach to develop skills and career pathways for all areas of the nautical tourism and boating industry at EU and national level. Schools, universities, and vocational training institutes should be incentivised and financially supported to provide training and support careers in the industry.
Investment, in particular for infrastructure requires a swift approval process. We therefore propose the creation of a ‘marine fast track’ at national level for approval of projects and permits with clear timelines and procedures.
Value of marina investment: Coastal and inland marinas, of which there are over 6,000 in Europe, are intrinsically linked to the local economy and tourist offer. Boaters visiting marinas provide income for local economies, restaurants, and shops. It is estimated that for every 25 berths, one direct job is created and for every 4 berths one indirect job is created. The average expenditure per pleasure boat is estimated at 6000€ per year. Around 2/3 of benefits go to local or national activities.
3. EU Recovery Plan
To ensure that the green and digital transition can realise its potential for the boating and nautical tourism industry, a number of cross-cutting recommendations are included below based on the various elements of the EU Recovery Plan:
1. Specific recognition and support for investment needs of the boating and nautical tourism industry within national recovery plans and EU funding schemes as set out above
2. Provide a better differentiation between maritime transport and recreational boating in terms of infrastructure investment needs, demands and resources (e.g. differences between commercial port and marina for recreational boats)
3. Recognise the role and potential of nautical tourism for the economic development of regions through cohesion funding, including those previously reliant on the production of fossil fuels
4. Development of concrete investment priorities for individual sub-sectors of the tourism and maritime ecosystems at EU level
5. Implementation of a dedicated budget line for tourism in the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework as requested by the European Parliament
6. New support through recovery funds should be combined with existing funds at EU and national level that should be prioritised accordingly
7. Development of guidelines for companies to access funding schemes at national and EU level under the EU Recovery Plan
The role of nautical tourism in regional transformation: There are several successful examples of open-pit mines being turned into lakes and developed for nautical tourism. The Lusatian Lake District in Eastern Germany is based on decommissioned lignite opencast mines that were turned into a lake district with more than 20 lakes and canals over the past years. Many nautical tourism activities now exist in this new tourism region, such as marinas, recreational fishing, water sports and sailing. This is intrinsically connected to the wider economic development of the region and regional tourism offer.
European Boating Industry (EBI) joined a strategic dialogue with EU Commissioner for Industry and Internal Market Thierry Breton on the recovery of the maritime sector following COVID-19. EBI presented the impacts of COVID-19 on the recreational boating industry and the opportunities to lift the sector from the crisis through measures at EU level. The other maritime sector stakeholders represented were ship builders, maritime equipment producers and ship owners.
The meeting allowed EBI to present the recreational boating industry at the highest political level of the European Commission. EBI raised the strategic importance of Europe as the number one region for the production and export of recreational boats and nautical tourism. The sector offers a success story of European manufacturing with several industrial champions and a vibrant tourism sector. The entire industry consists of 32,000 companies of which the majority are SMEs and employs 280,000 people.
The meeting came on day after the European Commission presented its long-awaited proposal for the EU recovery plan with an unprecedented €750 billion recovery fund. It identified the tourism and maritime mobility sector as key areas for investment by the EU and Member States in the recovery period. During the meeting, Commissioner Breton highlighted the importance of the maritime industry ecosystem for Europe’s economy and recovery after the COVID-19 crisis. In his view, the industry has a crucial role to play for a digital and green recovery where public investment will play a substantial role.
EBI echoed the calls first made in the joint policy paper of 20 boating industry associations in Europe in mid-April (see here). This consists of a coordinated opening of borders for travellers, navigation, supply chains and tourism in the short-term under strict health and safety conditions. This needs to be followed up by stimulating consumer demand through promotion of European tourism. Furthermore, the EU’s Recovery Plan should play a strong role in investment and focus on the environmental and digital transformation of the boating industry.
The other participants in the meeting represented ship builders (SEA Europe, Fincantieri, Meyer Werft), maritime equipment manufacturers (ECA Group) and ship owners (Vroon Group).
On 13 May the European Commission presented a package of measures to support the tourism industry in the COVID-19 crisis and start the summer season (see here). It encourages consumers to take advantage of the summer tourism season and help the EU tourism sector recover. It includes an overall strategy towards recovery in 2020 and beyond, a gradual lifting of border restrictions, re-establishment of transport links, criteria for restoring tourism activities and health protocols, as well as a recommendation on vouchers as alternatives to reimbursement . These guidelines and recommendations are provided to EU countries and companies for implementation.
Throughout these measures, the Commission recognises the importance of on-water recreation, and the maritime and inland waterway tourism industry. At several points, it highlights that leisure boating should not fall under a general prohibition but be allowed following a risk-based approach and implementing specific procedures, such as regular cleaning and disinfection. EU countries should lift restrictions for leisure boating based on specific health and safety protocols. The Commission specifically mentions marinas and resuming activity in these under strict health and safety conditions. The Commission recognises that domestic and intra-EU tourism will be increasingly popular and should be promoted. It sees a strong role for maritime and inland waterway tourism in this.
The announcement from the European Commission comes after many weeks of advocacy activities and dozens of virtual meetings by EBI with the European Commission, Members of the European Parliament and other members of the EU institutions. Advocacy actions were based on the joint policy paper that 19 European boating industry associations and EBI signed in early April (see here). This unity has been key to advocacy. Several boating industry associations have also prepared guidelines to facilitate the application of social distancing rules and all applicable health and safety requirements.
The European Tourism Manifesto alliance, the voice of the European travel and tourism sector of which EBI is a member, has issued a statement on the European Commission’s Tourism package. It highlights that the package represents a first and important step to facilitate travel and tourism in Europe, support the sector’s recovery from the crisis and enable a more sustainable tourism ecosystem in the future. It calls for a swift implementation and further measures to ensure that the tourism industry can restart and recover. The full statement can be found here.
The European Commission released its flagship Industrial Strategy and SME Strategy yesterday. European Boating Industry (EBI) welcomes these and their potential to support the recreational boating industry in Europe to sustainably grow, create employment and further develop the sector’s global leadership and environmental transition.
The European Commission presented its new Industrial Strategy that recognises the value of industry and wants to support them in being “future-ready”. It aims to tackle the challenges of environmental transition, as well as digitalisation. It recognises Europe as the “home of industry” and industry as “central to Europe’s future progress and prosperity”. The strategy announces a number of initiatives to support industry to grow and maintain its leadership.
The European Commission also released its SME strategy at the same time. It aims to support small companies in transitioning to sustainability and digitalisation, as well as addressing regulatory burden and improving access to financing. EBI Secretary-General Philip Easthill commented on the announcement “The EU Industrial Strategy is an important step to ensure the long-term growth of Europe’s industry. With over 95% SMEs in the boating industry, we particularly welcome the focus on smaller companies that are the backbone of European industry. We look forward to engaging with the European Commission on shaping the industrial ecosystem in the boating sector and turning this strategy into concrete actions.”
EBI is a member of the Industry4Europe coalition of over 150 industry associations. Launched three years ago, it advocates for an ambitious industrial strategy that helps Europe remain a hub for a leading, smart, innovative and sustainable industry, and that provides quality jobs and benefits all Europeans and future generations. The Coalition published its Joint Paper ‘A long-term strategy for Europe’s industrial future: from words to action’ in which it presented concrete policy proposals.
The BlueInvest Day, organised by the European Commission brought together start-ups and investors in the blue economy. It included pitching opportunities, matchmaking and plenary sessions. The recreational boating industry was showcased in several pitches and represented among the many start-ups participating. EBI led this participation as one the showcase organisations selected by the European Commission and was represented with its own stand.
In the plenary sessions, speakers presented the opportunities for public and private funding for the blue economy. Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius highlighted the policy dimension, which follows from the European Green Deal. A key part of this is investment in the blue economy that can help the sector to thrive and combine sustainability with business success. This also offers substantial opportunities for companies in the recreational boating industry.
At the BlueInvest Day, the BlueInvest Fund was launched with €75 million equity by the European Commission and European Investment Bank. It will be managed by the European Investment Fund and will provide financing to equity funds that target and support innovation in the blue economy. The condition for funding is that the activity takes place in the marine environment or using marine resources.
The European Commission's BlueInvest platform supports investment readiness and access to finance for early-stage businesses, SMEs and scale-ups. For more information, please consult the BlueInvest Platform here.
With Croatia currently holding the Presidency of the Council of the EU in the first half of 2020, it plays a key role in the EU policy-making process and leads the policy discussions at EU level. An EBI delegation therefore met with Ambassador Goran Štefanić (Deputy Permanent Representative, Croatian Permanent Representation to the EU) and Nevenka Žiža (First Secretary for Transport, Croatian Permanent Representation to the EU) to discuss the key issues for the boating industry.
The importance of sustainability for boating industry was highlighted, including circular economy, EU funding for environmental transition and the importance of marinas as connecting point for citizens and marine environment. Furthermore, the role of tourism as an increasingly important and growing aspect of the recreational boating industry was underlined.
Several meetings of national ministers will address the issue of sustainable tourism and maritime industry during the Croatian presidency, including meetings of national Tourism Ministers and Transport Ministers. Tourism is an important element for the country’s Council presidency, and it wants to develop a European tourism brand and to develop tourism opportunities. The EBI delegation was made up of Robert Marx (Council member, EBI & President, BVWW), Yves Lyon-Caen (President, FIN) and Philip Easthill (Secretary-General, EBI).
The EBI delegation also met with the Cabinet of the Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries to introduce the recreational boating industry and its key priorities at highest political level. The discussion focused on the importance of sustainability for the boating industry, the need for mutual recognition of boating and skipper licenses through a clear legal framework at EU level and the overall challenges and trends in the industry.
The Conference was organised by the Croatian EU Presidency and Industry4Europe, a coalition of over 150 industry associations promoting a strong EU industrial strategy. EBI is a longstanding member of the coalition and was a sponsor of the event held on 21 January in Brussels.
Several high-level speakers from the EU institutions spoke at the event:
Key points addressed during the event were the role of European industry to implement the European Green Deal, the importance of small and medium-sized companies, and industry as backbone of the European economy. The EU should lead in innovation and developing the products, technologies & business models of the future.
EBI partnered with the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, thus strengthening its action for environmental and economic sustainability and its commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. As a partner to the high-level initiative, EBI leads the environmental engagement of the European recreational boating industry.
The United Nations has proclaimed 2021-2030 as the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development to draw attention to the role of ocean health and bring together stakeholders for sustainable development. “EBI is a strong supporter of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and we are delighted to now be a partner of the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. Engagement with the various branches of ocean science is key to develop policy at European level that is geared towards sustainability”, EBI President Jean-Pierre Goudant declared.
The EBI Council committed to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), among which “Decent Work and Economic Growth”, “Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure” and “Life Below Water” are key areas for the recreational boating industry. “Our industry promotes clean and healthy oceans and we are engaged to achieve economic and environmental sustainability. It is a transition that requires strong support by policy-makers at European, regional and national level. We look forward to working together for these goals within the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development”, commented Philip Easthill, Secretary General of EBI.
More about the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development can be found here.
Navigating a Changing Climate Partnership
EBI also became an official supporter of PIANC’s Navigating a Changing Climate Partnership. Participants have committed to work together to support the inland and maritime navigation infrastructure sector in their response to climate change. Activities aim at furthering understanding, providing technical support, and capacity building to 1) Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and shift to low carbon maritime and inland navigation infrastructure and 2) strengthen resilience and improve preparedness to adapt to the changing climate.
EBI will be participating to support the further development of environmental sustainability and climate change adaptation policy in the European recreational boating sector.
PIANC is the World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure. PIANC members include Governments, corporate members, public and private sector organisations and, individuals from 65 countries around the world.
More about the partnership can be found here.