Its unique climate, history, culture and natural beauty make the Mediterranean the world’s leading tourism destination. Driven by Southern and Mediterranean Europe, international tourist arrivals have grown from 58 million in 1970 to nearly 320 million in 2015, with a forecast of 500 million by 2030. Half of these arrivals are in coastal areas.
(Rome, 9 January 2019) Coastal and maritime tourism is undeniably crucial to most Mediterranean economies in terms of the revenue and jobs generated and exports and capital investments created. However, conventional and unplanned tourism is a major challenge for natural and cultural assets as it both causes and suffers from linear and coastal urbanization (littoralization), the overconsumption of natural resources, water pollution, waste generation, marine littering, land degradation, loss of biodiversity and damage to cultural heritage such as landscapes, historic places, sites and built environments, cultural practices, knowledge and ways of life, etc. Conventional, unplanned tourism is also detrimental to local communities due to factors including the unbalanced distribution of benefits, its limited ability to create decent jobs (especially for young people and women), the resulting loss of cultural identity, degradation of local infrastructure and the increased cost of food and housing at popular destinations.
In a business-as-usual scenario, tourism will account for over 10% of global CO2 emissions in the next twenty years. A shift to sustainable tourism is not only the path required to preserve our region’s natural and cultural assets and local communities’ quality of life, it is also an effective strategy for mitigating and adapting to looming climate change challenges: rising sea levels, more acidic oceans, changing marine and coastal ecosystems and biodiversity, flooding, erosion, saltwater intrusion, long periods of drought, etc.
There is no time left. It is urgent that we move towards “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities” (UNWTO) now. This presupposes new tourism policies, management practices, and significant financial resources.
European Union and a growing number of other Mediterranean countries’ efforts to promote competitive, sustainable, responsible and quality tourism and to develop national sustainable tourism strategies must be recognized despite inherent difficulties relating to this sector’s complexity.
Read the full policy recommendations
In English here
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