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

Mass tourism is a lucrative business for large international chains, but the example of cruise illustrates that the link between the economic growth and the social transformation of destinations remains problematic.

The economic outcomes of the cruise industry for national destinations

In terms of economic outcomes, the ports of departure receive the most revenue. Big firms (mainly cruise lines) monopolise an entire segment of the offer: reservations, airline arrivals and in-port accommodation, excursions in ports of call, etc.

The economic outcomes for the ports of call, particularly in Greece, are much smaller and do not always outweigh the negative externalities: water and energy consumption, waste generation, traffic congestion, adverse impacts on seabeds due to cruise ship anchors, sense of invasion of local people.

Encourage redistribution of tourism added value providing benefits for territories

If the cruise industry’s aim consists in generating economic benefits in the local area, countries must combine different factors: cruise ship production, a high ratio of ports of departure to ports of call and a considerable number of overnight stays. In the Mediterranean, only Italy manages to combine these different factors.

For each of the 9 Mediterranean destinations studied, landbased tourism represents an average of 0.4 direct jobs per bed. When the effects of seasonality are limited, the monthly employment rate is better spread out over time (at approximately 10% per month) and contracts for tourism employees are less precarious. Benefits of growth are not always well redistributed in the territories. Economic leakage for tourism revenues is frequently noticed. In Turkey, it is estimated that nationally between 51% and 60% of revenue from package tours organised by foreign tour operators is not injected into the Turkish economy.

Include tourism areas in the implementation of territorial development projects

Tourism activities are frequently disconnected from economic, social, environmental and cultural contexts of the places where it operates. It is thus necessary to situate tourist destinations within territorial projects to plan tourism strategically, in line with other activities and the economic, social,
environmental and cultural potential of each area.

To encourage tourism territories’ development, Plan Bleu suggests to:

  • Work closely with local players to structure public spaces for participation to develop local plans of action aimed at enhancing their degree of sustainability;
  • Support the creation of mechanisms for monitoring and supporting the implementation of those action plans.

Key figures

Rate of cruise industry in international tourism: 1.8% of international arrivals in 2009

Growth of cruise from 1995: 106% between 1995 and 2000, 55% between 2000 and 2005, 57% between 2005 and 2009

Percentage of economic leakage in the case of Alanya: 85% of tourism revenues (estimation)

Percentage of GDP redistributed for wealthiest elements of Alanya’s population: 44,4% in 1980; more than 56% in 2009



More information

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

Cruise and recreational boating in the Mediterranean

Towards an observatory and a "quality label" of tourism sustainability in the Mediterranean

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