Mediterranean Dialogue
Mediterranean Tourism, need for change

Tourism © Photo/Pixabay

Tourism cannot be separated from the local, national or global context in which it operates. Whether it is epidemics, wars, economic crises, whatever happens in its environment affects it, as we have seen, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on the tourism sector.

The tourism sector has experienced spectacular growth over the last 70 years. Its drawbacks, if poorly managed, should not distract us from the great opportunities it offers if it is well managed. Because of its cross-cutting nature, it impacts on 70 other economic activities, and accounts for 10% of GDP and 10% of employment.

Of the world's 7.2 billion people, 1.5 billion crossed borders for leisure travel in 2019. Revenues increased to USD 1.7 trillion, reaching almost USD 5 billion per day.

The Mediterranean is the world's leading tourism area with nearly 400 million tourists: 32% of all international arrivals and 30% of global revenues. It accounts for 13% of exports, 23% of the services sector and employs more than 20 million people. The region has 20% of the world's hotel accommodation capacity. It has 10,000 destinations, some 100,000 hotels and one million restaurants, However, despite these numbers, tourism remains heterogeneous and fragmented between the two shores of the Mediterranean.

Airport © Photo/Pixabay

Tourism is a locomotive for economic growth or recovery in the Mediterranean. This capacity to drag other sectors is clear, as the co-benefits of this industry are multiplier effects.

If responsible, tourism stimulates inclusive growth, creates jobs and SMEs, attracts investment, boosts environments, preserves and protects the environment, preserves and promotes culture. Covid-19 has also made it very clear that personal health and wellbeing are very important. It is therefore an opportunity to reboot tourism and offer a new model of tourism post-Covid-19 that is more sustainable.

Optimism is key, but change is needed. The pandemic crisis forces a rethink of the economic model. It is necessary to examine ways and find new ways of marketing, reinventing and growing. Work with the territories, review social tourism and care for heritage.

The most obvious answer is to get out of this great crisis and enhance the value of tourism in the Mediterranean. But what is the strategy and what tools will economic actors and communities put in place? The exchange of practices and coordination between countries on both shores should be the priority.

Governments, the private sector and the international community must work together to overcome COVID-19 and this unprecedented social and economic crisis. However, the capacity for stimulus will vary considerably from country to country. Several factors will come into play, such as infrastructure, human resources, economic capacity and even political factors. There is an urgent need to mitigate the impact of the crisis, ensure tourism recovery and enable the sector to play a leading role in the overall recovery.

Airport © Photo/Pixabay

To accelerate recovery, it is necessary to promote stimulus measures and provide financial incentives for tourism investment and operation and preparation for the future. Support job retention, rescue SMEs and boost start-ups in the sector and protect the most vulnerable groups. Review taxes and charges affecting transport and tourism. Ensure consumer protection and trust. Boost events and congresses. Promote new jobs and the acquisition of skills, especially digital skills. Include tourism in national and regional economic emergency mechanisms to restore confidence and stimulate demand. Create crisis management mechanisms and strategies. In conclusion, prioritise tourism in recovery programmes and development aid.

The very prospect of climate change poses a serious threat to development and sustainability. Many determining challenges for the future, particularly in terms of tourism management, climate and sustainability. There is an urgent need to enhance the offer in the Mediterranean, both for its cultural diversity and its historical importance, with special emphasis on the great existing biodiversity.

The tourism sector demonstrated how it was able to adapt to market changes, driving growth, despite persistent economic and geopolitical challenges. Now is the time to evaluate and analyse the situation of the tourism industry, as competition and customers have changed, it is time to work together, to join forces in order to compete in a global world, to bet on sustainable development capable of creating new opportunities that will allow us to continue on the path of growth.

A regional tourism agency, an institution that should count on the participation of all actors, from public-private cooperation, is a necessity, we must give more priority to cooperation and join forces with new innovative formulas.

The creation of a single brand for the entire Mediterranean is key to boosting joint promotion and marketing systems and tools to compete in the global market and expand the Mediterranean's share of the tourism market in order to generate income, create jobs and reduce the gap.

However, it must be ensured that its recovery and expansion benefits the entire population, and is in line with the SDGs, the challenge posed by this pandemic and climate change, fundamental for long-term sustainability.

Anwar Zibaoui. Founder of AZMEDA Advisers & Consulting Group, international strategic entrepreneurship consultancy in Europe, Middle East, Africa, Gulf and Mediterranean. General Coordinator of ASCAME, the most important and representative organisation of the private sector in the Mediterranean region, 23 countries, 350 chambers of commerce and industry and similar. Coordinator of the Mediterranean Week of economic leaders.