Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean



Sustainable tourism the way forward for the Mediterranean


In the face of mass coastal tourism, the limits of which are now clear, a new type of tourism needs to be invented that is more eco-friendly and gives more consideration towards local populations.

The coastal tourism mode as shown its limits (photo F.Dubessy)
The coastal tourism mode as shown its limits (photo F.Dubessy)
The United Nations General Assembly has designated 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, a decision that will have a particular echo among the countries of the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean. The tourism sector in those countries acts as a primary economic lever, representing up to 8.1% of GDP and 7.4% of direct employment in a country such as Morocco.

According to United Nations World Tourism Organization figures, in 2014 the Mediterranean region hosted 313 million tourists, one third of all international traffic, when its entire population is only 487 million. This influx obviously creates a discrepancy between the pursuit of maximum gain on one hand and the need to preserve natural ecosystems and promote local assets and stakeholders on the other. How can the coastal tourism "monoculture" that prevails today be overcome? What new avenues can be explored to provide greater diversity in product offerings and promote new, sustainable development models? 

Abandoning the tourism mono-activity

It is these questions that the sixty or so experts and decision-makers gathered at a workshop organised by the Plan Bleu and the French Development Agency (AFD) in Marseille on 23 and 24 May attempted to answer.  "As the channel for state development aid, the AFD is trying to better target its financing to ensure tourism does not remain the poor relation of development policies. Our workshop was aimed at identifying best practices and the best ways of working in the tourism sector," explains Tom Tambaktis, event organiser for the Plan Bleu. Action can be taken in several areas. One of these is government policy, by facilitating the implementation of regulatory tools both at state level and that of local authorities, who are on the front line and have a better grasp of the real issues.
The coastal tourism model, with its gigantic hotel complexes relying on seasonal influxes and offering rock-bottom prices, has shown its limits. In a Mediterranean region rocked by political instability, this may well be a good time to start restructuring the tourism offer and begin thinking about transforming the huge seaside complexes that are currently standing empty. This restructuring must also take into account the tourism potential of the hinterlands -ensuring the mistakes that have ruined the coasts are not repeated- by designing products that both preserve the local areas' authenticity and take into consideration their populations. Lastly, attention must be given to reducing the seasonal factor, source of imbalance, and spreading the influx over the whole year.
Tambaktis concludes, "Basically, we need to understand that our dependence on coastal tourism has to end. We also have to give up this pretence that tourism in itself is a driver of development."

In partnership with le Plan Bleu

Version française


Christiane Navas, NICE

Monday, June 13th 2016

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