We call on the future Commission to invest more in SMEs & cut red tapes to help craft distillers in rural communities

 

A couple of days ago, I wrote an article published by Euronews in which I outlined our call for support to craft distillers which are heavily contributing to the economic and social growth in rural communities, in particular thanks to the growing trend of #SpiritsTourism.

Visitors not only enjoy the discovery of new products, but also “offline” experiences that create authentic relationships with the region they are visiting. Our producers offer distillery visits, product tastings, cocktails masterclasses and even the opportunity to make your own product on-site. These are experiences that consumers from all over the world are increasingly attracted by: 2 million visitors to Scotish distilleries, 1.6 million in France and close to 1 million in Ireland – just to mention a few. The success of #SpiritsTourism not only benefits those employed in the distillery, but also the local community that develops around them offering hospitality and related services.

This economic vitality and development is welcome for a number of reasons. Rural communities all over Europe are struggling to compete with larger cities who attract young people and, with them, their economic dynamism (rural populations are set to fall by 8 million to 2050 while urban populations are due to rise by 24.1 million). Europe’s SMEs, which represent 99% of EU companies, are often struggling to remain competitive in those sectors where a few players hold significant market positions. spiritsEUROPE calls for a renewed focus to address these challenges as we enter a new mandate of the European Commission, adding that this is crucial to maintaining Europe’s culture and competitiveness.

Further, spiritsEUROPE joined a number of MEPs and other signatories of the Tourism Manifesto in a letter to incoming European Commission President von der Leyen calling for the new Commission to take SMEs, rural communities and tourism seriously, and recognise the opportunities they offer.

There should be a long-term rural and tourism strategy reducing red tape for SMEs to make support for startups and rural communities fully tangible. Funding programmes are welcome, but representatives of SMEs will agree that complex legislation often puts them at a disadvantage to larger, established companies capable of navigating this labyrinth. For example, small distillers face “glass ceilings” on their growth which other SMEs don’t. To give one example, the minimum standard excise rate for spirits is 2.5 times higher than for beer, and craft brewers are currently allowed to produce 1,000 times the amount of alcohol that craft distillers can before they’re hit with the full excise rate.

Spirits tourism generates jobs, supports economic revitalisation of rural communities and boosts rural regions’ brands as tourist destinations. We hope that initiatives like spirits tourism will receive the support they need and deserve from the next Commission.

Ulrich Adam*

Director General

*In his capacity as permanent representative of SPRL ADLOR Consulting