European Maritime Day (EMD): Sustainable tourism as a strategic driver for blue economy

BleuTourMed and DestiMED projects participated in the EU Maritime Days conference 31 May-1 June in Burgas, Bulgaria. A conference that gathered 900 attendees across the EU and focused on identifying potential collaboration opportunities for the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions.

“In the European Union, the blue economy already generates more than 500 billion euros a year, that’s roughly 4% of our total economic output, but with our economic opportunities come environmental responsibilities” said Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, at the welcome speech of the European Maritime Day (EMD) conference 31 May-1 June in Burgas, Bulgaria.

BleuTourMed and DestiMED projects played a key role in this annual meeting point promoted by the European Commission for Europe´s maritime community by highlighting how sustainable tourism can generate economic opportunities while reducing the environmental footprint. The event was a perfect opportunity to position the work of the MED Sustainable Tourism Community, which BleuTourMed and DestiMED belongs to, and identify new collaboration opportunities among the 900 attendees coming from across the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions and representing public and private organisations.

The team also participated to three workshops, including one which was organized by IUCN, WWF, CPMR, and Arco Latino entitled Between Green and Blue: Sustainability in Marine and Coastal Tourism. During this well-attended energetic workshop, participants broke into working groups and recommended solutions for key issues such as managing impacts of mass tourism, developing alternative tourism flows, and capitalizing on regional initiatives in order to inspire further collaboration and influence policy makers.

“Our workshop focused on identifying solutions toward the critical challenges we are facing both in DestiMED project and across our MED Sustainable Tourism Community, such as ´How can we reduce the ecological footprint of tourism on destinations, and how can we develop alternative tourism flows that do not become part of the problem?´” said Jeremy Sampson, Communications Officer at IUCN.

The team also contributed to a panel on Ocean Literacy, illustrating case study examples from MEET Network in which actors from the tourism sector have been motivated to build their capacity and improve their practices based on clear economic incentive that is linked to the blue economy. The MEET Network, which is an outcome of DestiMED project, is an association that enables protected areas to advance their own ecotourism efforts locally while engaging in meaningful exchanges and marketing their ecotourism products under a common regional brand.

Created in November 2016 within the framework of the Interreg MED Programme, the MED Sustainable Tourism Community gathers 18 territorial cooperation projects co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), and almost 200 organisations (public authorities, private companies, universities, NGOs and international organisations) active in twelve European-Mediterranean coastal areas. Most notably, the Community’s members are leading the development of common tools to monitor the tourism industry, they are studying and testing new tourism models and they are actively engaging policy makers and managers in a constant dialogue to make tourism a real driver for sustainable development.

DestiMED is an Interreg MED project that brings together a network of seven project partners and 13 protected areas in six Mediterranean countries to collectively develop, manage, and protect ecotourism at local and regional scale. The project is led by Regione Lazio, which involves the IUCN Mediterranean Centre for Cooperation, FEDERPARCHI – Europarc (Italy), MEDPAN – Mediterranean Protected Area Network, WWF Adria, WWF Mediterranean Programme, AKZM, Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania, and the Global Footprint Network.

The BleuTourMed is an Interreg MED project featuring the MED Sustainable Tourism Community and is coordinated by Arco Latino, a network of local public authorities based in Barcelona, in partnership with UNIMED - Mediterranean Universities Union (Rome), University of Panteion (Athens), Plan Bleu for the environment and development in the Mediterranean (Marseille), Barcelona Provincial Council (Barcelona) and Adriatic and Ionian Euroregion (Pula).