• July 27th, 2022

Barcelona, July, 2022 – By Anwar Zibaoui, General Coordinator of ASCAME. Article originally posted by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom.

The battle against COVID-19 continues as it becomes a chronic disease that is not yet under control. The pandemic has exposed numerous vulnerabilities and problems, yet we are faced with a unique opportunity to reboot sectors such as tourism and offer a new, more sustainable model.

The Mediterranean tourism sector was already facing an over-supply of hotel capacity, economic crisis and bureaucracy, as well as a lack of flexibility and innovation and poor collaboration between all actors in the sector. Problems such as climate change, natural disasters and limited available resources or challenges such as senseless acts of terrorism, fires, hurricanes or droughts. What happens anywhere in the world affects the entire tourism sector dramatically.

Whatever the new normal, with the gradual reopening of borders, travellers are beginning to arrive at their destinations and it is time to respond appropriately with durable solutions and define the future. But despite the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, the indicators are good. In the first half of 2022, there has been an 11.7% growth in European Mediterranean destinations. However, the Middle East and Africa recorded a decline of 20.8%. The Mediterranean region has 20% of the world’s hotel accommodation capacity. The 24 Mediterranean countries have 10.000 destinations, about 100.000 hotels and one million restaurants.

Four Mediterranean countries are among the world’s top destinations: France, Spain, Italy and Turkey. The Mediterranean is the world’s leading tourism area, accounting for 35% of all international tourist arrivals and 30% of global tourism receipts. Mediterranean tourism also accounts for 13% of Mediterranean countries’ exports and 23% of the service sector: it employs millions of people. However, Mediterranean tourism remains a patchy, heterogeneous and fragmented sector.

Many countries in the south of the region are paying the price of the pandemic, insecurity and political instability. And with their main source of foreign exchange impacted, the consequences are weighing on economies, scaring off investors, increasing instability and aggravating unemployment, pushing their young people to emigrate.

The Mediterranean tourism sector now requires vital support to facilitate its transformation towards a new, more resilient, green and blue model that strengthens local economies in a balanced and sustainable way.


The pandemic can be the turning point for Mediterranean economies. We know that we must halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. A Fourth Industrial Revolution has begun, with new digital tools, which are a powerful accelerator of inclusion, competitiveness and cooperation and which enhance sustainability. Since the global financial crisis of 2008, we know that we need to evolve. While, historically, tourism has shown a great capacity to adapt, innovate and recover from adversity, this unprecedented situation requires new approaches, a solid response and partnership at several levels.

The present and future challenges for the Mediterranean are to become a sustainable tourism destination and impose a shared responsibility based on the three pillars of sustainability: economic, environmental and social. The tourism of the future incorporates balanced and focused development objectives and requires a change of attitude of the entire value chain: destinations, businesses and tourists must face the challenges and engage in new measures and actions to ensure sustainability, efficiency and profitability.

Community-driven tourism also promotes responsible consumer behaviour by fostering deeper cultural exchange and understanding than traditional sun and beach tourism. The importance of visitor awareness should not be forgotten. Consumers are a powerful driver of change. Their voices and demands have the power to improve the economy and well-being.

The new post-pandemic traveller has changed and will seek more personal experiences, moving away from mass destinations. This traveller has developed higher expectations of hygiene and safety, and is likely to shift to holiday experiences that focus on quality instead.

The Mediterranean tourism industry lacks a formal body that can bring together all its voices, and represent and coordinate their shared interests. A single body needs to be established to act as a forum for the sector to foster greater collaboration and unity, share resources, secure prices, renegotiate contracts, provide legal support for disputes and communicate with governments. The ability to continue to attract tourists needs to be improved in order to secure a leading position globally.

The way forward is clear: to foster cooperation and coordination of a coherent, modern and efficient Mediterranean tourism market. A profitable sector that generates not only income but also jobs and benefits the entire population. A sector prepared for climate change and aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals. Without a comprehensive plan to consolidate its leadership, recovery and sustainability are at risk.

The impact of tourism is not only important for the economy. It is also a learning experience that opens new perspectives on other cultures and facilitates understanding of history and of the way of life of other people. It is not surprising that some of the best writings in literature have been produced by traveller writers, such as Marco Polo and Ibn-Battuta.