CHALLENGES AND PERSPECTIVES FOR COASTAL AND MARITIME TOURISM IN EUROPE: the outcomes of MITOMED Final Conference

The Final Conference of the MITOMED project, held in the stunning venue of Palazzo Medici Riccardi in Florence on 12th May,  was opened with an introductory speech by Sara Nocentini, Regional Minister for Tourism and Culture in the Regional Government of Tuscany, who welcomed the participants, outlined the scenarios of tourism in Tuscany and underlined the importance of transnational cooperation.

Maria Luisa Mattivi, Sector for Tourism Destinations in the Regional Government of Tuscany, Lead Partner of the project, provided an overview of the MITOMED project and its main findings.

Round table 1 was focused on the use of indicators as a management tool to increase knowledge of M&C tourism, and promote informed decision-making. Lluis Prats Planaguma, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Tourism of the University of Girona opened the Round Table with the question “Why do we need indicators?” The answer is knowledge, necessary in the highly complex tourism sector, to manage tourism in a sustainable and competitive way. Knowledge is a fundamental tool to plan and manage tourism. MITOMED project tried to move in this direction, but during the GAP analysis, implemented during project activities, the following issues, regarding tourism indicators, emerged:

  1. Problems: difficulty to collect data, general lack of data availability and the lack of comparability, even when data are available;

  2. Deficiencies: difficulty to have an exact definition of indicators or/and terms related to indicators definition, which affect data availability and comparability.

  3. Solutions: One of the main problem, which arose from the GAP analysis, is to collect, redefine and implement indicators.

With these points in mind, the Round Table debate begins with an intervention from Laura Grassini, Professor of Statistics at the University of Florence, who focuses on the problems with the collection of tourist data. We need to collect them at the local (destination) level, not at the national level. At the local level many improvements can be made, and the first step is to set up cooperation agreement on one side in order to have access to the data, and on the other side to involve stakeholders to gather the type of qualitative data that can only come from interaction and participation. Social dialogue is fundamental in a complex sector such as tourism.

Paolo Bongini, Head of Area for Tourism, Commerce and Tertiary Activities for the Regional Government of Tuscany focused on why we need indicators and for which objectives we can use them. The categories of indicators analysed within MITOMED are based on the work undertaken within the NECSTouR network. He underlined the importance of the project’s bottom-up approach with the involvement of stakeholders in the different tourist destinations. It is fundamental, especially at destination level, to use the indicators as a tool for the definition of the actions to be implemented in a territory.

Thanks to the NECSTouR Network, the MITOMED project was able to work with other regions in the MED area. So the round table welcomed presentations from representatives of three of these regions: Emilia Romagna (IT), Alentejo (PT) and Andalusia (ES).

Alessia Mariotti, Centre for Advanced Studies on Tourism at the University of Bologna took the floor by stating that is necessary to interpret numbers, discovering what they really mean and the causes behind them. It is necessary to find a way to use social dialogue to put quantitative and qualitative data together. She suggested that sustainable tourism means that we need to switch our point of view and consider social variables. We should no longer think about competitiveness in terms of having more tourists, but rather in having better quality of life for residents: the residents need to be the first priority for the local authorities.

Roberto Grillo, Vice President of CCDR Alentejo provided an overview of the regional policies designed to support measurement and implementation of sustainable and competitive tourism. Alentejo Region has established a system of indicators within their project 2020, designed to promote the territory in harmony with the environment and the society. The region has been involved in a lot of testing of indicators particularly through NECSTouR.

Ana Moniche, Andalusia Tourism of the Regional Government of Andalusia took the floor to present the lessons learned in her region in elaborating a system of tourism indicators. The objective of the system was to manage their own destinations. Indicators need to present the whole picture of the tourism destination: not just the tourism supply, but also the interaction of tourism with the environment, economy, culture and the population. Andalusia has the goal to monitor and evaluate tourism management and planning. The existing partial management was not satisfactory and an integral model was needed. Ms Moniche presented the structure of this system, which includes 348 indicators in seven key areas. The system is available on line at http://www.turismoandaluz.com/

In conclusion, the round table showed that it is not a matter of talking about numbers and data, but rather of talking about their meaning: what we need them for and how we are getting and using them.

Round Table 2 illustrated the MITOMED Action Plan and debated, with input from practical experiences, possible fields of action which could be the basis for future cooperation projects. The Round Table was moderated by Giovanni D’Agliano, Head of Sector for Tourism Destinations at the Regional Government of Tuscany and Giuseppe Sciacca, Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe.

It began with an introductory speech from Asterio Savelli, Associate Professor at the University of Bologna, who provided a sociological viewpoint entitled “Coastal tourism in the post-industrial society: challenges and development potential”. He discussed in detail the change from mass tourism to differentiated tourism and the ways in which the meaning of tourism has changed. We need to reorganise the tourism system in terms of the new organisation of society and we also need to consider that people now want to differentiate themselves from the others.

In the Mediterranean, any discussion about tourism needs to start from the sea. Coastal tourism is always at the heart of MED tourism offer and we need to ensure that the sea is still what is should be: a point of beauty and attraction, that forms part of our social context; a place that offers the possibility for action and a focal point for the society. We need to address the problems that are weakening the attractiveness of our coastal areas, working together among these local, coastal areas we can find connections with a globalised world.

Eudokia Balamou, Project Manager at ANETEL, presented the MITOMED Action Plan, which is a strategic document, based on the activities carried out during the project life, that defines how the findings of the SWOT and GAP analysis can be capitalised and used as starting point for the definition of a set of needs to be developed in a series of recommendations for policy-makers and of actions for technicians, to be potentially be implemented in the new programming period.

The introductory speeches were followed by an open debate with presentations from tourism stakeholders from across the Mediterranean, representing examples of concrete initiatives undertaken in order to make coastal and maritime tourism more competitive and sustainable.

Filippos Drousiotis from Cyprus Sustainable Tourism Initiative presented a range of projects that have been supported in Cyprus, often thanks to public / private ccooperation. Most cover environmental aspects such as the reduction of environmental impact of tourism. They include an integrated initiative for Greening Beaches but also social projects “making all-inclusive more inclusive” , minimising the impact on local society.

In Istria, the awarded initiative Istria Inspirit – presented by Manuela Hrvatin, Istria Region - has promoted new forms of cultural tourism, trying to face the seasonality issue. This initiative has brought together a network of key actors, with public funding, to create new packages in cultural tourism (gastro-cultural experience). Cristiano Pezzini, owner of Bagno Teresa in Marina di Levante, Viareggio presented a project developed by a bathing establishment in Viareggio, in cooperation with the tourist office, aiming to actively promoting a round the year tourist season. The project has a number of interconnected activities, all with the aim of increasing presence in this area, in a sustainable way and outside high season. They range from environmental sustainability to promoting events and local products. Efforts have also been made to provide better bus connections to the more popular tourism sites (e.g. the carnival in Viareggio). This type of project needs the support of the local authority and the enthusiasm of the businesses in the area. Enrico Caracciolo, journalist, presented an example of soft mobility and cycling tourism with the project for Cycling on the Etruscan coast (c.100 km of coastline between Piombino and Livorno). This project started at the beginning of 2000 with a study of the area, which is not traditionally associated with cyclo-tourism, but which has a lot of potential. Itineraries were developed and surveys have shown that this initiative has brought a new type of tourists and benefits to the residents (mobility shift towards bicycles). The challenge is to raise awareness about the potential of cycle-tourism.

Following open debate with the audience, who highlighted the complex nature of planning tourism actions given its interlink with so many other sectors, the second round of presentations began. In this round, practical experiences were matched with presentations of some other projects funded by the MED Programme within the Maritime call. Daniele Contini, National Research Council, presented the POSSEDION project, which has provided a wealth of information on the impact that ship traffic in and around the ports in the MED can have on the environment. The project used an advanced methodology to integrate emission inventories, modelling and measurements in four port cities in the MED. The figures on air pollutions from tourism traffic were backed up by Giovanni Spadoni, Livorno 2000 Port Authority, who demonstrated the changing trends in passenger transport, and also provides an overview of the kind of problems that ports face in being sustainable, while still promoting economic growth. In Livorno the most visible example of this is the need for an extension to the port in order to make it more accessible (and thus more competitive to nearby ports). Another example concerns congestion due to cruise ships. In collaboration with a number of public and private stakeholders, a range of initiatives are being carried out to manage congestion. Luca Santarossa from Federparchi moved the discussion towards another specific focus: sustainable tourism for multi-purpose small-scale fishery as analysed within the FISHMPABLUE project. The project’s main focus is co-management of fisheries with local stakeholders, aiming at  diversifying the tourism offer: how can we use sustainable, traditional elements (local products, relationship between the man and the territory, cultural aspects related to fisheries) to attract a certain type of tourist? The objective is not to change the local environment but to find the niche market that appreciates this. The final presentation came from Dania Abdul Malak, University of Malaga, who represented the Med-IAMER Project. Med-IAMER focuses on major pressures generated from tourism. The project identified these pressures, such as hotspots where areas are under high environmental pressure, and analysed conflict of use. Spatial indicators were used to link impact to space. They also checked policy trends that could lead to major pressures in the Med (e.g. blue growth strategy). Clear weaknesses in tourism policy have been identified: in particular, a specific strategy for sustainable tourism does not exist. It is also important to take the set of indicators and to turn them into a certain vision, defining regional objectives and the indicators useful to measure them.

The conference was brought to a conclusion by Giovanni D’Agliano and Giuseppe Sciacca, who recognised the important contribution made by all the conference participants and stress the importance of continuing to work together at Mediterranean level. We need to think about the Mediterranean as a single, united destination. We need to decide how we want to create this destination: identifying  its heart and the future possible actions with single projects, like MITOMED, we cannot cover all the necessary actions, but working in collaboration with stakeholders and with other projects we can start to form a common foundation.

Conference presentations are available at the following link: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B7EegsDpRnDdfld0c1lhX0x3aFp1d2NTUnN3LWNpR2paUk5RRHNlck9LQUxPdFVTM19YZ2M&authuser=0

Further details are available on request from:

mitomed@regione.toscana.it

Video contribution from the Conference, realised by COM&CAP MarInA-Med project:

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