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How to develop sustainable tourism in the Mediterranean?


Written by Christelle Marot, PARIS on Thursday, November 5th 2015 à 14:14 | Read 1034 times




MEDITERRANEAN. Working with the RMEI network and the Defismed association, the Take the Med Jeunes platform is examining the challenges and solutions in the transition to sustainable tourism.


A tourist on three chooses the Mediterranean Sea (photo C. Garcia)
A tourist on three chooses the Mediterranean Sea (photo C. Garcia)
MEDITERRANEAN. The growth of mass international tourism has increased not only the opportunities but also pressure on the natural and cultural assets in the Mediterranean host countries. How can sustainable tourism be developed in the Mediterranean?

It's a huge challenge. According to the World Tourism Organization, 343 million foreign tourists visited a Mediterranean destination in 2014. The Mediterranean accounts for more than a quarter of all international tourism income and almost 20% of the world cruise market. By 2030, more than 500 million tourists are expected to visit the region each year.

"For several years, the number of initiatives put in place by civil society and public authorities, backed up by stakeholders such as the AFD (French Development Agency), World Bank and Plan Bleu has been increasing. On the northern shore especially, collaborative schemes have been developed, including in the economic field, a result of the economic crisis. We need to imagine solutions to boost the development of this eco-tourism in order to promote this heritage and generate new jobs (…) We can reasonably expect around 1% of international tourism to convert to eco-tourism within the next four years. This non-seasonal tourism is of great interest to the local operators," says Eric Raulet, chairman of the Defismed think-tank.

Around the Mediterranean Rim, in Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, Italy and France, initiatives are springing up but they are isolated and need to be coordinated, promoted and assessed.

The Take the Med Jeunes (TMJ) pilot project, carried by the RMEI's GAMe network and Defismed, was set up in 2013. GAMe (Giovani Ambasciatori Mediterranei = Young Ambassadors of the Mediterranean) is a network of engineering students in the Mediterranean region. The TMJ aims to prompt students –future decision-makers- from the Mediterranean Rim to ponder the challenges ahead in their own specialist field in the transition to sustainable tourism. This has already enabled the TMJ to produce a number of publications from different angles, including marketing, engineering and philosophy.

"It is vital for these future engineers to be part of this transition in the tourism sector so as to avoid simply repeating what has been done over these past few decades. Today, we need more information. For example, how to assess the ecological merits of a particular practice? Which tools can be used to guide and inform tourists," underlines Eric Raulet. For the chairman of Defismed, this pilot scheme is a success. The programme has already rallied around a hundred students, including many from the Ecole Centrale de Lyon. On the Internet, the TMJ site prefigures the future eco-tourism catalogue in the Mediterranean, with offers including environmentally-friendly accommodation in Andalusia and the Asturias close to nature reserves.

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