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 organised a Regional Workshop “How can tourism contribute to sustainable and inclusive development in Southern and Eastern Mediterranean countries”, in partnership with the French Development Agency (AFD) in Marseille on 23-24 May 2016. This workshop helped developing 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.

Furthermore, Plan Bleu has carried out a study on sustainable tourism in collaboration with SCP/RAC, PAP/RAC and SPA/RAC, resulting in the publication of Plan Bleu Paper N°17  in May 2017 “Sustainable Tourism in the Mediterranean: State of Play and Strategic Directions”. This report aims at shaping guidelines and recommendations for sustainable tourism in the Mediterranean, analysing the critical environmental, social, economic and cultural issues that need to be addressed in order to ensure the development of sustainable and inclusive Mediterranean tourism.

Finally, Plan Bleu is one of the six partners of the BleuTourMed project from the Interreg MED Programme 2014-2020, whose ultimate goal is to support the legislative framework establishment concerning the Mediterranean marine and coastal sustainable tourism. The six partners of BleuTourMed project animate a Community of 14 thematic projects on sustainable tourism, spreading and capitalizing their results upon Mediterranean stakeholders. The subjects addressed by the projects are various, such as seasonal variations of waste generation linked to tourism, protected areas’ governance as Mediterranean ecotourism destination, or promoting alternatives and more sustainable tourism models in the Mediterranean.

Key figures

The Mediterranean is the first tourist destination in the world:  30% of total international tourist arrivals in 2014.

58 millions of international tourist arrivals in 1970; 314 millions of international tourist arrivals in 2014

Projected international tourist arrivals in 2030: 500 million tourists (+59% in comparison with 2014)

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


Sustainable Tourism in the Mediterranean: State of Play and Strategic Directions

Promoting sustainable and inclusive tourism in the Mediterranean: Guidelines for a sustainable tourism in the Mediterranean

Tourism and sustainability in the Mediterranean: key facts and trends

Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development (MSSD 2005-2015): Assessment of Tourism Component

Tourism in the Mediterranean: a driving force for sustainable development?