by Maria Spiliopoulou
ATHENS, March 10 (Xinhua) -- An informal European Union (EU) Tourism Ministerial meeting hosted in Athens on Monday paved the way for the implementation of a bold Blue Growth agenda aiming to boost employment and overall efforts to overcome present challenges across Europe.
Ministers gathered at the New Acropolis museum in the centre of the Greek capital to exchange views on key problems and opportunities arising in the maritime tourism sector.
They examined ways on how to build on a better cooperation between the European maritime public and private sectors and welcomed a new EU communication in maritime and coastal tourism, Greek Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogiannis told a press conference at the end of the meeting.
Addressing a High Level Conference on Coastal and Maritime Tourism held in parallel in the context of the Greek EU Presidency, the Greek official stressed that tourism remains the key to exit the current economic crisis and restore growth.
The Blue Growth agenda under discussion which centers on coastal and maritime tourism will strengthen efforts for the creation of more job positions, according to officials.
Today the tourism industry corresponds to approximately ten percent of Europe's gross domestic product, she noted.
Coastal and maritime tourism is considered as the "backbone" of the coastal economy across the continent, currently offering some three million job positions, as about half of tourists traveling across Europe choose these coastal regions for their vacations.
"Quality was addressed as the key concern and the ultimate objective of both the European and national policies in order to obtain effective, sustainable and lasting growth," Kefalogiannis underlined during the press briefing.
Elaborating on the content of the Blue Growth Agenda, Maria Damanaki, the Greek European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, explained that it is based on 14 actions aimed at helping businesses and employees involved in the sector to face the present and future challenges.
She described the Agenda "the effort to try and create the best possibilities to create new jobs, new employment, by exploiting all the potential that we have in our coastal resources."
"Coastal tourism is a huge issue. We want to have a competitive sector and overcome all the problems and challenges that have been highlighted," she added.
With the Agenda the EU intends to help all involved to respond to these challenges and resolve issues of fragmentation, lack of skills and problematic access to funding in order to capitalize on the blue economy potential.