In response, Dr. Heino Nau traveled from Brussels to provide an overview at Seatrade Cruise Global about the ongoing efforts of the European Commission to develop new environmental regulation for cruises.
Nau is the coordinator – International Blue Economy for the EC, the executive branch of the European Union. He is the first EC official ever to address a Seatrade Cruise Global session.
Nau said the European body is at work this year on a Sustainable Cruise Tourism report. Due by year-end, it will produce a shortlist of best practices that cruise lines may adopt to boost their environmental compliance in Europe.
European Green Deal
Ultimately, cruise lines will have to fit into the framework of the so-called European Green Deal, a set of policy initiatives adopted in 2020 with the goal of making the 27 EU member countries carbon neutral by 2050.
Nau explained that cruise tourism is a small but valued part of the tourism industry in Europe, with about 8m passengers sourced from Europe in 2019. Although it comprises less than 1% of the overall tourism market in Europe and a scant 2% of coastal and maritime-related tourism, the industry has a hefty impact on jobs because of the key role of European shipyards in producing cruise ships.
Therefore, Nau said it is important to the EC that cruising has a sustainable path.
The European Green Deal is more than an effort to address climate change. 'This is an attempt to fundamentally change consumption behavior and transform the European economy,' he said. 'Many aspects that shape the environment and the ecosystem are covered by this (initiative).'
The EC has raised €800m for improvements related to resiliency, Nau noted, and cruise tourism is one of the areas eligible for spending from that silo.
Sustainable Transition Pathway
To launch its march towards carbon neutrality, the EC is building a Sustainable Transition Pathway, and Nau said tourism has been chosen as the first sector where the pathway will be developed.
He noted tourism is not one of the EC’s core responsibilities in the way that European trade or competition policies have been delegated exclusively to the body. Instead, each member country makes its own tourism policies, which are then coordinated or facilitated through the EU.
First-time EC joint tourism policy
The push to develop a sustainable cruise tourism plan marks the first time the EU member states have agreed to develop a joint tourism policy at the EC, Nau said. Currently some countries have cruise sustainability policies, while others don’t.
The Sustainable Cruise Tourism draft report is being overseen by a Peer Review Group that includes cruise lines, European ports, tour operators, destination management organizations, municipalities, academics and environmental agencies.
The report is expected to winnow the shortlist of best practices to a select strategic few that will be the subject of cruise industry buy-in and commitments by 2025, Nau said.