Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

Sustainable tourism - Towards a strategic regional framework in the Mediterranean

Written by Christiane Navas, NICE on Tuesday, July 25th 2017 à 15:30 | Read 1150 times


The world’s number one tourist destination, the Mediterranean region is in need of a frame of reference that will reconcile increasing visitor numbers with sustainable development.

(photo : F.Dubessy)
(photo : F.Dubessy)
Although tourism is a vector for economic growth -representing 11% of the region’s GDP and 11% of jobs- it also brings with it a depletion of natural resources, an increase in pollution and a deterioration of cultural treasures, not to mention income distribution that does not always benefit local populations. The United Nations’ declaration of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism provides an opportunity to put several projects into action.

With more than 300 million arrivals each year, and an expected 500 million by 2030, the Mediterranean has become the world’s number one tourist destination. In a report published in May, the Plan Bleu reviews the state of play and recommends strategic directions to be taken to ensure a sustainable approach to developing tourism. The outcry from inhabitants of Venice and Dubrovnik against being overrun by cruise passengers for port calls of just a few hours shows that the limits have been reached. Security problems linked to the terrorist threat or political instability are another major issue.

Promoting sustainable tourism is far from being a new concern. Many texts have already been adopted at the international level (United Nations, ILO…), regional level (Barcelona Convention, in particular the MSSD 2016-2025, European Union…) and national level. Still, according to the Plan Bleu’s deputy secretary-general Jean-Pierre Giraud, “there is no regional scheme specifically dedicated to sustainable tourism for the Mediterranean. Our report aims to bring a measure of coherence and recommend axis for work based on objectives and actions that different stakeholders can take on.” 

Sharing a common vision

To support this strategic regional framework, the Plan Bleu’s report proposes a common vision of sustainable tourism: “to… allow visitors and hosts to enjoy a balanced, respectful and fruitful relationship that values the unique environmental, human and cultural heritage found in the Mediterranean region…”.

Five objectives have been identified: environmental integrity, social progress, better balance between economic sectors, protection and promotion of heritage and, lastly, shared governance for greater efficiency and transparency. To reach these objectives, a programme of concrete actions has been drawn up, with all the stakeholders concerned, both public and private-sector, able to take part. There remains the issue of measuring and monitoring tools that have, until now, been lacking. Lastly, the report finally provides avenues with regard to financing, underlining the need to conciliate public and private-sector investments.

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