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 shipbuilders, 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 for 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 one 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. 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.
EBI Secretary-General Philip Easthill, who represented EBI during the meeting, commented “Being a part of the dialogue with Commissioner Breton shows the strategic importance of our industry for the maritime and tourism ecosystems. COVID-19 will have a substantial impact on our industry, and it is crucial that this is taken into account for the recovery plans of the EU and Member States. Investment in the promotion of European nautical tourism and a green and digital transition of the boating industry is needed. We look forward to continuing the dialogue with Commissioner Breton.”
The other participants in the meeting represented ship builders (SEA Europe, Fincantieri, Meyer Werft), maritime equipment manufacturers (ECA Group) and ship owners (Vroon Group).