How can Mediterranean tourism contribute to sustainable and inclusive development of territories?

The challenges related to tourism in the Mediterranean require the definition of tourism strategies rooted in the local territories and enhancing economic competitiveness, social responsibility, and natural and cultural resources-saving. 

A driver of economic growth inadequately controlled

Tourism is a driver for economic growth in the Mediterranean. Its key role in the future development of the region is often counteracted by certain negative effects in terms of sustainability, as follows:

  • Economic benefits do not encourage social transformations (income inequality, strong dependence to the international market);
  • Growing dependence to air transport, especially in the case of islands;
  • The coastline suffers from urban sprawl (saturation) and pressure on natural resources;
  • Areas are not adequately managed as regards public services (water, waste, sanitation),
  • Natural and cultural assets tend to be degraded during the destination maturation phase

Promote sustainability in Mediterranean tourism areas: a key challenge for Plan Bleu

Plan Bleu has focused on Mediterranean tourism challenges in terms of sustainability since 1989. For instance, after several programmes of activities focusing on Tourism, Plan Bleu defined in 2007 a list of indicators to assess and follow-up tourism sustainability. The programme of activities “Promote sustainable tourism in the Mediterranean” (2009-2011) was defined around four components:

For the development of sustainable strategies in Mediterranean tourism areas

The results of Plan Bleu’s programme of activity highlighted the need to:

  • Including tourist activities in “projects of territory”, particularly in order to promote links between coastal areas and their interlands.
  • Engaging tourist destinations in a participatory process to promote sustainability “labelling” for Mediterranean tourist areas in order to increase the added value created in these areas.

In 2016, Plan Bleu launched new activities on the theme “Tourism and sustainability”. The Regional Workshop “How can tourism contribute to sustainable and inclusive development in Southern and Eastern Mediterranean countries”, organized in partnership with the French Development Agency (AFD) in Marseille on 23-24 May 2016  helped to develop a shared vision and practical approaches for a renewal of tourism development patterns in the region, including improvement and diversification of coastal tourism, as well as key findings on public policies that promote balanced development of countries and destinations through tourism activities. In addition, Plan Bleu is drafting “Guidelines towards a possible Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Tourism”, sectoral declination of MSSD 2016-2025.

Key figures

The Mediterranean is the first tourist destination at the global level, representing 28% of total international tourist arrivals in 2011. 

Evolution of tourism in the Mediterranean: 58 millions of international tourist arrivals in 1970; 283 millions of international tourist arrivals in 2011

Projected international tourist arrivals in 2025: 637 millions of tourists, a 74% increase in comparison with 2000

Top 5 destinations: France (83.7 million international tourist arrivals), Spain (65 million), Italy (48.5 million), Turkey (40 million) and Greece (22 million) - or 83% of total arrivals in the Mediterranean (2014).


AFD, EIB, UNWTO, SCP/RACIUCN-Med Malaga, MEET Network, DéfisMed

More information

BleuTourMed - Maritime and Coastal Sustainable Tourism in the Mediterranean

Report of the Regional Workshop, 23-24 May 2016 

Regional Workshop, 23-24 May 2016, Marseille

Programme of activities 2009-2012
Tourism and sustainable development in the Mediterranean

Studies supported by EIB and carried out between 2009  and – 2012