Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

Mediterranean tourism evades the crisis

Written by Frédéric Dubessy with the correspondents on Monday, November 26th 2012 à 22:01 | Read 2150 times


In spite of the economic crisis and the Arab Spring, the Mediterranean countries are expected to record a growth in their tourism of between 2 and 4% in 2012. According to the Mediterranean Travel Association (META), the potential for growth in the region lies in the South, the East and the Balkans.

 MEDITERRANEAN  In both the north and south of the Mediterranean, the end of the summer season is the moment of reckoning. In the context of the economic crisis, the most visited tourist region in the world (30.4% of total international visits in 2011), with four countries (France, Spain, Italy and Turkey) in The World Tourism Organization’s Top 10 World Destinations for 2010, seems unwilling to accept the predictions.

Indeed, as revealed by Mediterranean Travel Association (supported by Earthcheck , RevDev Consultants , Mondeca , Afnor groupe , Digimind , Emakina  and 1ère Position ) in its latest findings released on, “the current situation in all areas of the Mediterranean is proving to be much better than expert opinion believed at the start of the year”. More encouraging still, META reports that the Mediterranean countries are expected to record a growth of between 2 and 4% in their tourism in 2012.

Isabel Borrego, Spanish Secretary of State for Tourism, has already announced “a record year with 58 million foreign visitors and a 3.6% increase in the number of visits between January and August 2012 compared to the same period in 2011”, the figures however were boosted by an exceptional influx as a result of the Arab Spring.

The impact of the economic crisis is expected to turn out to have been favourable.

A lack of renewal in Mediterranean tourism

Mediterranean tourism evades the crisis
According to META, the Mediterranean welcomed 7.13 million extra international visitors in 2011 compared to 2010. The 300 million barrier has been broken with a total of 301,854,000 international visitors. Of course, this increase (+2.4%) is still lower than the overall global increase (4.89%) but it has been achieved in spite of the impact of the Arab Spring and the European crisis.

Étienne Pauchant, president of META. Photo DR

It must be noted that in the main the increase in percentages between 2000 and 2011 can be found in the markets in the South and East and the Balkan (non EU) markets. The region’s potential for growth therefore lies very much in these markets, and not in the more mature European markets which are only recording weak growth levels for the period concerned (but strong increases in terms of visitors). It is possible that by 2020 the Mediterranean will be able to match the strong progress seen mainly in the Asia-Pacific region, with a significant boost from the Balkans and countries in the South and East.

« Theoretically, 2012 should see worldwide tourist visitors exceed a billion and figures for the Mediterranean soaring past the 300 million barrier » , added Étienne.
META is reporting that in twelve years’time, international visitors will have increased by 158% in the East, 149% in the Balkans (outside the EU), 68% in the South and only 9% in the North.


Figure 1: The area META (30 Mediterranean countries including Portugal and Mauritania) took the lead in 2011 global market share with 30.42% of international tourist arrivals. (source META)


Figure 2: International tourist arrivals in the Mediterranean continue to rise for ten years. (source META)

META reports that “the continual loss of market share since 2000 is a result of a lack of renewal in the Mediterranean. Modern tourism began in the Mediterranean, with the arrival of paid holidays in the post-war period. These Spanish and French innovations were replicated by Tunisia in the sixties, and then much later in Egypt (Sharm El Sheikh) and in Turkey. The initiative seen in the Mediterranean in the beginning has since been overtaken by strong development in the Indian Ocean and the Asia-Pacific region”.

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has shown that direct spending by international tourists in the destination countries in 2011 reached €697.73 per visitor for the Southern/Mediterranean European area (compared to €747.98 for Asia-Pacific). META calculates that the spending per visitor is €638.54 for the East of the Mediterranean, €634.55 for the North, €596.49 for the Balkans and €501.45 for the South. “An overall decrease of 1.7% with the North being the only area to record a slight increase of 1.8%”, noted Étienne Pauchant. According to META, a recognised authority on this region, “the ‘direct’ contribution of tourism to GDP is estimated to be €275 billion in the Mediterranean in 2011 and €713.8 billion overall (including tourism-related investment), or slightly more than 11% of total GDP”.
Morocco, without doubt the most advanced country in terms of diversification in tourism (photo F.Dubessy)
Morocco, without doubt the most advanced country in terms of diversification in tourism (photo F.Dubessy)

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