• July 25th, 2023

By Anwar Zibaoui, General Coordinator of ASCAME. Translated from Spanish to English. Originally posted in El Nacional.

Summer, sun and sea on a Mediterranean island. There is no image more powerful in our collective imagination as a destination for a special holiday. A magic that acts as a magnet to attract millions of tourists every year.

Tourism integrates many positive elements. It develops technologies and services, builds infrastructure, generates job opportunities, especially for young people and women, and facilitates the cultural and social exchange that enriches both the traveller and the destination.

However, especially in the Mediterranean islands, growth must be sustainable. They are fragile territories in terms of resources, and because of their physical limitations, it is essential to maintain a balance, to support their economies and their local communities in order to build a better future.

On the islands, tourism appears to be an essential part of the lives of their people and is perceived as one of the few economic development opportunities available. The paradox is that the arrival of massive tourist flows also disturbs the fragile ecological balance and does not lead to a fair and coherent distribution of income.

The distribution of tourism supply is not uniform. The Mediterranean islands have 25.100 hotels and tourist accommodation facilities, and 1.850.280 hotel beds, but 56% of overnight stays are in the Balearic Islands, Sicily and Crete. The Balearic Islands have 25,8% of the total number of beds, 30% of arrivals and 32% of overnight stays.

National and regional policy-makers must promote tourism in the Mediterranean islands. All the actors involved should agree on a common strategy. A solid approach, which not only helps the sector to recover from the pandemic, but also ensures a resilient, sustainable, inclusive and competitive Mediterranean tourism sector.

The tourism of the future requires responsibility and a change of attitude throughout the value chain: destinations, businesses and tourists. Islands must become the vanguard of a new regional tourism based on the three pillars of sustainability: social, economic and environmental.

The Mediterranean islands must coordinate and work together to face challenges such as climate change, economic diversification, profitability, seasonality and efficiency. A cooperation project is essential to consolidate their long-term sustainability and allow them to compete at a global level. Faced with common problems and challenges, the Mediterranean islands cannot compromise future needs through poor strategy and management today.

There is a need for conscious tourism, promoting responsible consumer behaviour and fostering cultural exchange. The visitor is a powerful engine of change, leaving a footprint and having the power to improve the economy and well-being of the region he or she chooses to visit.

Islands can initiate the transformation that the whole Mediterranean region needs. Now is the time to harness the fourth industrial revolution and new digital tools as a powerful accelerator of inclusion, competitiveness and cooperation that will enhance sustainability. In line with the Sustainable Development Goals and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

The strategy is to achieve the objectives on an island scale: respect for the environment, urban planning, viability, waste and water management, energy consumption, mobility, promotion of local cultures and management of tourist flows so that they are respectful of local development and resources. If successful on a small scale, Mediterranean islands will spread hope for the whole region.