The Sustainable Tourism Community in 2021-2022: enlarged and enhanced by new modular projects

The Sustainable Tourism Community is still thriving and ready to tackle the challenges ahead in developing a more sustainable and resilient tourism sector in the Mediterranean region, one of the most heavily hit by the COVID-19 crisis. Seven territorial cooperation projects, gathering 69 organisations (amongst which public authorities, private companies, universities and civil society representatives) develop alternatives to mass tourism in 12 countries and 30 regions in the Mediterranean coastal areas.

All the ongoing projects share the aim of capitalising on the results achieved so far with particular attention to tourism in islands, sparsely populated and remote areas. The new projects introduce new capacity building opportunities and monitoring tools to address tourism pressures, enhance attractiveness, diversify tourism offers and strengthen integrated planning and management practices.

More specifically, the ongoing projects of the Sustainable Tourism Community tackle the following strategic issues:

1/ Tourism Multiple impacts: How to reduce the environmental-cultural-social impacts of tourism in the Med region

DestiMED PLUS , INHERIT and LABELSCAPE design and implement a common methodological framework to measure tourism and its sustainability at sub-national/local level.

DestiMED PLUS focuses on 9 protected areas across the Mediterranean region with the aim of improving the quality and sustainability of their tourism offer, through the creation of a common ecotourism model and the enlargement of the MEET Network, an association of Mediterranean protected areas aiming to enhance and promote ecotourism across the Mediterranean basin.DestiMED PLUS's approach is aimed at equipping destinations to establish a Local Ecotourism Cluster (LEC), which brings together public and private organisations from the conservation and tourism sectors to jointly develop and manage ecotourism in the protected area destination. The objective is to enable destinations to collect data to measure and manage the environmental and social impacts of their ecotourism products, through standard indicators (e.g. ecological footprint calculator, socio-economic and conservation indicators).

INHERIT aims at harmonizing conflicting policies for tourism development and environmental protection of MED coastal and maritime tourist destinations, enhancing the value of natural heritage in Mediterranean area, thus alleviating seasonality and tackling over tourism. It has designed and implemented a bottom-up biodiversity and nature protection mechanism, which relies on self-regulation and monitoring by local residents and tourism stakeholders.

LABELSCAPE aims at integrating sustainability labels in wider tourism policies, providing support for destination-based initiatives in the certification process. The project starts from the assumption that governance and integrated joint planning are crucial to ensure more sustainable and responsible forms of tourism. LABELSCAPE's main objective is to increase transparency, visibility and usability of sustainability certification in MED tourism destinations for protecting natural and cultural resources and improving destination-level management.

2/ Measuring Tourism Sustainability: incorporating tailor made indicators for Med destinations

HERIT-DATA and INCircle aim at identifying and estimating the limits of tourism destinations, encouraging the use of new methodologies. The projects aim at mass tourism flows, which often cause a wide range of negative impacts and externalities, both in cultural sites and in remote areas, affecting among others the quality and availability of natural and cultural resources as well as the areas' attractiveness.

HERIT-DATA aims at better managing the tourism flow and reducing the impact on local cultural heritage sites, using technology and data exploitation. It has defined a set of indicators to collect data on tourism flows and implemented an effective data collection mechanism to monitor relevant information on the background, behaviour, characteristics and impact of "over tourism" on different heritage sites. HERIT-DATA is developing an online platform to analyze and provide useful data to policy makers, in order to elaborate new tourism public policies. That platform will help policy makers, destination managers, cities and sites, to anticipate and manage tourism flows in a smarter way. Further, an App will use this data to help visitors to better organise their visit.

InCircle aims at developing regional and municipal strategies for sustainable tourism, applying the principle of circular economy in tourist destinations located in islands and low density areas, where tourism is recognized as an important economic driver. InCircle is focused on developing and implementing specific circular economy indicators that can enhance local and regional management and sustainable tourism planning models. The Incircle Knowledge platform is a strategic tool for identifying the best practices in managing complex tourism scenarios, as well as a means to transfer knowledge and promote policy learning around four main action pillars: waste management, water management, energy efficiency and sustainable mobility.

3/ Inclusive governance mechanism: How to address the complexity of the tourism sector, a joint integrated transnational strategy

SUSTOWNS and WINTERMED aim to increasing the coordination between regions and small towns through a joint integrated transnational strategy including local actors and decision-makers. SUSTOWNS aims at enhancing sustainable tourism attraction in fascinating small towns, which have increasingly become tourist destinations for large numbers of visitors, favouring both the development and the growth of its territories.

SUSTOWNS aims to prevent these destinations from falling into a process of degradation, loss of value and attractiveness, ensuring that they maintain their tourist appeal, avoiding any risk of alteration of their fragile ecosystems. SUSTOWNS intervenes at the peak of the growing curve of tourist flows, by associating small towns to jointly govern these processes, improving capacity building and stakeholder engagement.

WINTER MED project tackles the current seasonality of the M&C tourism demand by capitalizing on European projects that have focused on the planning and diversification of sustainable tourism in MED islands. WINTERMED intends to improve strategies and policy planning in view of the transition from the summer overexploited tourist season to a responsible and sustainable all year-round offer, through the development of high-quality thematic tourism products, and the dissemination of best practices, strategies and methodologies for sustainable tourism. The project developed a series of capacity building webinars dedicated to good management practices in sustainable tourism planning and management. WINTERMED addresses several topics such as: sustainable development of tourism as a continuous process of observation and monitoring of tourism data indicators, governance model for sustainable tourism itineraries, Tourism Sustainability Toolkit, Transferability plan (from CO EVOLVE project), Sustainable Destination Management Model (from MITOMED+), a Mediterranean long-distance cycle route (EuroVelo8).

The MED Sustainable Tourism Community is the biggest of the Thematic communities co-funded by the Interreg Med Programme. From 2016 to now the Interreg MED Programme has co-funded 22 modular projects on Sustainable Tourism and two strategic projects, BEST MED and SMARTMED. The new projects have been enlarging and enhancing the Sustainable Tourism Community in terms of substantial outputs and in terms of geographical reach with new pilot areas. Together with past and ongoing projects, they strengthen the representation of Mediterranean coastal areas inside the Community and facilitate the transferring process of the projects' results to the entire Med area. To learn more about the achievements already made by the community please refer to the catalogue of projects outputs.

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