Over time the Mediterranean region has developed a unique blend of tourism activities associated with sea, health, sports, nature, business, as well as cruise and culture, offering consistent employment (11% of total employment) and economic growth (11% of regional GDP)1 . However, the economic growth due to tourism development has often been to the detriment of environmental integrity and social equity. Sea-Sand-Sun (3S) dependency, weak governance and degradation of cultural heritage, environmental pollution and resource depletion, contribution to climate change and climate vulnerability, political insecurity and social instability, economic and human capital leakage are some of the issues that threaten the longterm sustainability of the Mediterranean region and the tourism sector itself (Table 1).
Under the auspices of the UN Environment/MAP-Barcelona Convention, the recently approved regional sustainability frameworks such as the Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development 2016-2025 (MSSD 2016-2025) and the Regional Action Plan on Sustainable Consumption and Production for the Mediterranean (SCP AP) are completing the Protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone Management in the Mediterranean (ICZM Protocol) and making a contribution to tackling some of these issues. But inherent societal characteristics and the exponential development of the tourism sector are generating a need for a dedicated set of actions to be included in Strategic Directions for Sustainable Tourism in the Mediterranean to be implemented by regional, national and local policymakers and stakeholders under the following shared vision: 1 WTTC (2014). Economic impact of Travel & Tourism in the Mediterranean Promote sustainable Mediterranean tourism in which visitors and hosts enjoy balanced, respectful and fruitful relationships and value the unique Mediterranean environmental, human and cultural heritage, while ensuring inclusive socio-economic development, taking into account the carrying capacity of healthy natural ecosystems, and developing complementarity between various economic activities at the tourist destination level. Looking at the gaps between the vision and the issues identified makes it possible to list a set of Objectives and Strategic Directions for integrating the basic pillars of sustainability for the environment, society, economy, culture, and governance into the tourism sector (Table 2). In order to successfully implement the proposed Strategic Directions for Sustainable Tourism in the Mediterranean, relevant international institutions have been identified to coordinate specific objectives, directions or actions. These include: UN Environment/MAP and its Regional Activity Centres (technical coordination), UNWTO and UNESCO (thematic expertise), OECD (policy knowledge, economic governance), European Union (funding mechanisms) and Union for the Mediterranean (political support). While the costs associated with developing content for the Strategic Directions for Sustainable Tourism in the Mediterranean are relatively low, the budget for implementing the actions recommended could be significantly high and will require innovative financial instruments. In particular, lack of public funding increases the need to attract private and alternative investments to finance concrete actions and activities. Finally, a comprehensive, transparent and reliable monitoring system with relevant indicators has to be built to support the implementation and follow-up of the Strategic Directions that should be fully integrated within the MSSD 2016-2025.