Barcelona, January 19, 2017 -The official presentation today of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017 at the FITUR international fair in Madrid, with a focus on North Africa and the Middle East, is the perfect opportunity to analyse the opportunities that the sustainable tourism sector can open for the economies of the Mediterranean countries.
The good performance of the sector in the region is notorious. The Mediterranean is the main tourist area of the world with 32% of international tourist arrivals and 30% of revenues, in addition to a forecast of 420 million tourists by 2020. Countries in the region such as France, Italy, Greece, Spain and Turkey, capture 80% of these arrivals. An equally positive dynamic is found in the Balkan countries such as Montenegro or Croatia. In the Southern Mediterranean, great efforts are also being made, such as Morocco. This sector also accounts for 13% of the exports of the Mediterranean countries, 23% of the services sector and employs millions of people, around 12%.
The Mediterranean countries must not only continue to consolidate the current competitiveness of their sector, but also to promote with greater conviction and priority alternative models such as the creation of green hotels, and seek with this sector a greater added value and creation of transversal employment from the thrust of the private sector. In short, we are committed to a sustainable tourism growth and, therefore, greater social inclusion, job creation and poverty reduction.
The Association of the Mediterranean Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASCAME), represented by its President Mohamed Choucair and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), represented by its Secretary General, Taleb Rifai, has signed today a memorandum of understanding to promote the development of sustainable tourism in the Mediterranean region. As recognized by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a United Nations Specialized Agency, the private sector has a key role to play in achieving its objectives and, therefore, its collaboration with the regional private sector entity ASCAME, becomes crucial. Both entities will continue to work together on strategies that promote responsible tourism, driving regional sustainable development and catalysing positive changes in the region.
Both entities have been already working for some time on various initiatives and projects to promote regional tourism, and to promote public-private collaboration, such as the Phoenicians´ Route Cultural Tourism Programme, which aims to raise public awareness of the Phoenician heritage in today's regional trade and powerful industries such as textiles, while creating concrete programs such as cultural tourism, rural tourism and ecotourism.
An improvement in the resilience of the tourism sector in the region becomes crucial to continue to adapt to changes in a global competitive market. The launching of an ambitious program, such as the creation of a "Mediterranean Tourism Brand", could be the initiative that would consolidate the growth of the regional tourism.