Tourism and regional integration

Tourism is an essential economic activity for the Euro-Mediterranean region, both in southern countries (Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt) and northern ones (Greece, Italy, Spain). Current global trends in the sector threaten to make obsolete the Mediterranean model, which is traditionally based on mass seaside tourism. Climate change, the need to incorporate Euro-Mediterranean transport and facilitate regional mobility, and the new focus on cultural heritage and environmental protection, point to a restructuring of the Mediterranean tourism model. For SEMCs, where environmental considerations and local development are largely ignored, the main challenge is to adapt to new trends in international tourism and the growing demand for “sustainable tourism”.
The stakes of this tourism transition are considerable: they involve the vitality of an activity that on average counts for more than 10% of wealth production on both sides of the Mediterranean; the region’s territorial development (tourism development includes land planning); and especially the extent of Euro-Mediterranean integration. This is because tourism favours the circulation of people, capital, goods and knowledge. Given the increase in regional tourist flows (both North-South and South-South), creating the kind of tourism that contributes to development, preserves the environment and respects cultures would help to reduce tensions linked to ignorance of the other side, which evidently hinder regional integration.