A common European data space for tourism
"If data were accessible by all stakeholders sharing their information in the data space, then partnerships would be more likely to start up, with a beneficial impact on the end user" writes Misa Labarile, Policy Officer at the European Commission's DG GROW, in this new opinion piece where she reflects on the opportunities a common EU data space for tourism would offer to the sector at large.
This article by Misa Labarile, Policy Officer at the European Commission’s DG GROW, originally appeared in the European Transport Regulation Observer “Creating a common European mobility data space” (February, 2023).
Let’s imagine the case of a family travelling to another country for their summer holidays. After landing, they likely need a transfer from the airport to their hotel, be it a shuttle, a private ride, or a rental car, and hope to reach their hotel as quickly as possible. Knowing when to leave the air-conditioned waiting room for the pick-up and how long the transfer will take, which in turn can inform the hotel about arrival time so they can speed up check-in procedures, can make the difference between a pleasant and a stressful experience. If, in addition, the destination employs a smart mobility plan, managing flows of tourists, vehicle access restrictions, and navigation apps, the whole experience greatly improves beyond the moment of arrival and departure and for residents as well as visitors. A good holiday destination will build loyalty and more likely be booked again.
B2B data-sharing agreements allow these services to function better together. However, they depend on the business model and strategy of each party involved. If data were accessible by all stakeholders sharing their information in the data space, then partnerships would be more likely to start up, with a beneficial impact on the end user.
This example shows the opportunities a common EU data space for tourism would offer to the sector at large: it also shows how intertwined sectoral data is, with transport and tourism sharing particularly close ties. The Transition Pathway for Tourism, published in February 2022 and formally supported by the Council of the European Union on December 1, 2022, as the European Agenda for Tourism 2030, announced the intention of the European Commission to set up a data space for tourism. However, it clearly mentioned the need for it to work with other sectoral data spaces to ensure that information is not sealed in silos.
This is acutely evident when it comes to tourism and transport information. Indeed, in June 2022, the Communication of the European Commission on the Conference on the Future of the EU mentioned the mobility and tourism data spaces together as “new areas of action to consider”.
The tourism data space wants to build trust between stakeholders, providing strategic support for data-sharing partnerships in the tourism industry. This would open or allow access to a pool of data sets larger than what is reachable on an individual/national basis, which in turn would help tourism businesses improve and expand their services and authorities/destinations manage tourism flows better. This is a key goal because tourism is a sector almost completely composed of micro, small or medium enterprises that have little or no capacity for data management.
While the objectives set at policy level make for generally desirable outcomes, the challenges that come with actually making data sharing a reality raise thorny issues related to access, control, trust, data use and re-use, interoperability, and the need to avoid administrative burdens. Neither the tourism nor the mobility data space can take shape without an agreement between all parties involved on each and every one of these aspects.
Work has already begun on addressing these issues, and it involves the public and private sectors in cooperation with the European institutions and Member States. The tourism data space will be developed based on the outcomes of two preparatory projects, which kicked off in November 2022 and are expected to deliver answers regarding current initiatives, governance and technical requirements of the data space by the end of 2023.
While this is ongoing, the idea of a pilot project is in the pipeline in relation to the recent proposal of the European Commission for a Regulation on Short-Term Rentals, which includes a key requirement on establishing unique identifiers for tourism accommodations, data collection and transmission by private actors to public authorities. Scheduled in 2023, the project would gather public authorities and platforms willing to pilot, on a voluntary basis, the implementation of the proposal with a view to tackling its key enablers. This would allow all parties involved to anticipate the actual hurdles and requirements for data sharing in the tourism sector.
In parallel, the tourism industry is working on a Code of Conduct for public-private data partnerships in tourism. The Code of Conduct aims to support trust between relevant stakeholders as well as provide general guidance on how to build mutually beneficial data-sharing relationships in tourism, with or without a data space. As a tool for building trust, it will be published with the support of the European Commission in the first quarter of 2023.
2022 has been the year of great focus on data sharing and interoperability, with sectoral data spaces taking a firm footing on the policy agenda at the EU level. Stakeholders, EU institutions and national and local authorities across sectors have come together to discuss key aspects of future frameworks for interoperability and effectively set up an ambitious agenda for the years to come. More work is needed to transform similarities into synergies, and this is where the European Commission can play an important steering and coordination role.