The great wealth of ecological and cultural heritage and the beauty of the marine and coastal destinations on the Mediterranean Sea attract an increasing flow of tourists from all over the world every year. The European Environment Agency asserts that rising temperatures could result in better conditions for beach tourism, on average, across Europe. The beach season will indeed stretch into spring and autumn in southern regions. On the other hand, according to a European study published in 2015, under current economic conditions, the climate could lower tourism revenues by up to 0.45 % of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) per year in the southern EU Mediterranean regions, while northern European regions would gain up to 0.32% of GDP.
In light of these observations, it appears that the population’s current and increasing willingness to tackle the tourism challenges that we now face is being offset by serious drawbacks:
- lack of data availability, especially at local level;
- low level of understanding of pressures affecting marine and coastal areas, such as climate change mitigation, ecosystems fragility, mass tourism and seasonality, coastal erosion, micro plastic in the sea, water scarcity;
- lack of political commitment and financial investments to ensure long-term monitoring of processes through an integrated and holistic approach;
- low level of skilled and qualified human resources, to properly manage measurement and data collection, mainly in compiling and assessing surveys and questionnaires.
So far, with regard to the most relevant existing monitoring systems and tools at international and European level, it seems that the criteria used are not sufficiently targeted to wholly fulfill the specific needs of Mediterranean coastal destinations, including protected areas. Thus, due to a lack of endorsement at EU level, particularly by EUROSTAT, the credibility of data collection from local level is weak.
Considering these alarming trends, how does the situation look for the future of the Mediterranean tourism? How can we preserve the natural ecosystem that attracts so many tourists? How can we promote sustainable and responsible tourism in the face of mass tourism affecting the region?
It is therefore interesting to look at some of the current trends. The growing public interest in water-based sports, for instance, such as recreational fishing, boating, windsurfing and diving, not only creates economic potential but also helps redress the problem of seasonality as these activities do not depend on peak seasons. In the same vein, ever-changing demand creates the need for sustainable, innovative products that promote the attractiveness and accessibility of coastal and marine archaeology, maritime heritage, underwater tourism, wine and gastronomy activities – all of which provide unique and customized experiences.
Therefore, it seems that the most urgent challenge now facing policy makers at regional and local level is to build a strong MED cooperation alliance involving the relevant industry players. Indeed, in order to effectively monitor tourism sustainability, it is crucial to develop a common methodological framework that allows benchmarking and sustainable tourism policies and marketing activities to be improved; and that also provides replicable models that can be used around the Mediterranean region. Destination management organizations should work hand in hand, combining proven monitoring systems with technologies and new indicators such as the carbon footprints, the carrying capacity of tourism coastal destinations, cultural tourism and cruise tourism, culinary experiences, climate change, water consumption and marine eco-systems, to list a few critical issues.
With that in mind, this policy factsheet aims to bring together some of the most relevant initiatives and tools that have been developed and tested to effectively monitor tourism sustainability in the Mediterranean.
Read the full policy factsheet #1
In English here
In Catalan here
In Spanish here
In Italian here
In French here