Promoting responsible tourism

Protecting nature from the negative impacts of tourism

 Posidonia plantation. Tourists on naturetrail, Port Cros, France / ©: WWF
Posidonia plantation. Tourists on naturetrail, Port Cros, France
The Mediterranean region is the world's leading tourist destination.

In less than 20 years, the number of tourists to the Mediterranean is expected to increase from the 220 million today to 350 million.

Currently, mass tourism is one of the main causes behind ecological loss in the region. Mediterranean coastal areas, which receive 30% of international tourist arrivals, are already seriously damaged. Some locations which were once pristine are now beyond repair.

We aim at protecting nature from the negative impacts of mass tourism and at promoting models of responsible tourism in the most important areas for nature.

Efforts are focused on four field projects, in Croatia, Libya , Tunisia , and Turkey . In these sites, WWF Mediterranean is also promoting sustainable fisheries and creating marine protected areas.
 Crowded ferry boat, Italy / ©: WWF
Crowded ferry boat, Italy
Tourism infrastructure
Huge tourism infrastructure developments have dramatically altered the natural dynamics of coastal ecosystems, mainly along the European shores of the sea. Today, more than half of the 46,000 km coastline is urbanised.

Resource demands
Increased use of water in hotels, swimming pools and golf courses, especially during the summer, has aggravated water shortage, a major concern in the region. For example, an average Spanish city dweller uses about 250 litres of water per day, while the average tourist uses 440 litres. This number increases to 880 litres if the tourist uses accommodations with swimming pools and golf courses.

Effects on animals
Tourism infrastructure development is a major cause of habitat loss, especially for endangered species such as sea turtles and monk seals. Marine turtles, for example, have been badly affected by the destruction of nesting sites and by disturbance.
 Illegal buildings on Salaman Coast, Turkey / ©: WWF
Illegal buildings on Salaman Coast, Turkey
Forest fires
Tourism development has led to increased forest fires, sometimes deliberately started, to leave more land free for construction.

Impact on society
Often tourism, while destroying local landscape and culture, does not contribute significantly to local income, as most of the generated profits flow abroad to foreign tour operators and investors. Tourism also generates resource use conflicts with the local population, and disrupts the local way of life and social structures.