The Mediterranean and Black Sea basins dispose of a vast potential for Blue growth activities, particularly in the coastal and maritime tourism sector. Notwithstanding, in order to untap this potential, key limitations and obstacles have yet to be overcome: The two sea basins are still characterised by a high unemployment rate, a lack of innovation and limited collaboration between IMP related stakeholders. Among their rich assets are privileged weather, unique heritage and vibrant communities, which have made it the world number one touristic destination, and thus making tourism one of the pillars of the regional economies.
Tourism in the Mediterranean and Black seas dates back centuries, and so the structures and perspectives towards it are deeply settled both at local (communities) and external (visitors) levels. Beyond local and regional advantages and richness, this has caused massification and environmental impact, and being heavily seasonal and subject to intense competition, a negative effect on the quality and stability of the economic structures behind it. Under such pressures, some of the results are a constant fight to lower prices, precarious employment, eroded quality, poor governance, homogenisation, stressed ecosystems and a (perceived) lack of alternatives. As stated in a study to support sea-basin cooperation in the Mediterranean and Black Sea, coastal tourism remains “one of the most promising activities in all countries surveyed – one that would have even greater potential if it were given a wider perspective that includes other leisure activities”
Main issues related to Coastal Marine Tourism
Tourism has a strong impact on the environment, in particular on marine ecosystems. Permits for implementing infrastructures as artificial reefs to develop tourism activities, issued by authorities in charge to implement the regulation, will only be admitted if evidences are provided that these activities are in line with the MFSD (good ecological status).
Solutions are in the design of infrastructures (including artificial reefs), which must incorporate the functionalities of maintaining or even developing the ecosystems (biodiversity, biomass).
But until now, the reefs have not really brought environmental benefits, except by preventing trawling for example. Some argue that the reefs promote fisheries recruitment but it still remains controversial.
However, recent advances in coastal environmental engineering (habitats in ports to protect juveniles, relocation of algae, new reefs of wastewater discharges, ecological corridor, juvenile seeding from collected larvae) with especially strong progress on the scientific knowledge of ecosystems and their evolution in terms of impacts and eco-designed solutions have been achieved. The way for the development of ARs seems to be open to underwater ecotourism but under strict conditions.