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Back to Mass Tourism or leapfrog towards Sustainability

The Mediterranean tourism, severely impacted by the travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is now at a crossroad. Ambitious, green and inclusive recovery plans are therefore strongly needed to ensure a positive future to the Mediterranean tourism and contribute to a prosperous region.

Transformation towards a sustainable and equitable Mediterranean tourism

Before the pandemic, the tourism sector represented about 15% of Mediterranean countries GDP and 11.5% of total employment of the region. However, the abrupt arrival of the Covid-19, put an end to 25 years of growth for the tourism sector in the Mediterranean region, leaving countries and industry actors, big and small, in a dramatic situation.

The pre-Covid touristic model has proven to have large negative environmental impacts, being transport the most polluting activity. Nonetheless, there are other adverse impacts, like the loss of biodiversity (over 50% of Mediterranean endemic species are in danger of extinction), pollution, marine litter and unsustainable exploitation of resources.

Even though the pandemic has severely affected the tourism sector and public and international institutions have been forced to take immediate actions to support workers and businesses, it should also be considered as a unique opportunity to rethink the tourist system that we want in the future for this region.

In fact, the Covid crisis has also left positive lessons, like the renaissance of domestic tourism and the acceleration of the digitalisation in the industry. All museum and heritage sites have now virtual tours and, even if because of closed-borders, appreciation for local cultural and natural spots is booming.

While waiting for the vaccines to recuperate, in a few years, the 2019 tourism levels, the sector has to work towards a low-impact tourism model. There are indeed some initiatives raising on this direction, from individual companies to international institutions. The massive investments provided by the recovery plans offer the chance to boost the transformation of the tourism sector and ensure a better future for the whole Mediterranean region.