The Challenges of Tourism in the Mediterranean Region

Published : Thursday 08 November 2012
The Arab revolutions have badly hit the tourism sector of Southern and Eastern Mediterranean Countries (SEMCs), which have all met with declining arrivals – over 20% in losses on average for the entire sub-region. These unprecedented protest movements, combined with other, highly worrisome regional episodes (the terrorist attack in Marrakesh, war in Libya, the Syrian crisis) have alarmed European tourists, many of whom have retreated to the north shore of the Mediterranean for their holidays. The persistence of trouble in the Middle East and the uncertainties regarding the capacity of the new Egyptian, Tunisian and Libyan governments to ensure a democratic transition may cause tourists to continue to avoid South Mediterranean destinations. In countries where tourism accounts on average for 10% of both the GDP and employment, this crisis seems highly dangerous and makes the recovery of tourist levels an economic priority of the first order.

Yet the recovery of tourism activity is not an end in itself. The revolutions have revealed structural shortcomings in the tourism sector, weakened by years of inadequate governance and incapable of offering renewed development opportunities in the spheres of employment and investment. Although growth in tourist arrivals had reached a high in recent years, it is the tourism model itself that was called into question by the revolution. The predominance of mass seaside tourism,  dependence on the European market and territorial tourism development imbalances constitute  the weak points of poorly balanced South Mediterranean tourism. At a time when the majority of  SEMCs are undertaking processes of democratisation, said weaknesses represent the key sectoral  challenges these countries are facing.

Institut de prospective économique du monde méditerranéen (IPEMED), Paris
Doctoral Student in Geography
Institute of Research and Higher Studies on Tourism (IREST), Paris 1-Panthéon Sorbonne

IEMed Mediterranean Yearbook Med.2012 :

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