The Communications Team sat down for an interview with Mr. Stefano Ciuoffo, Minister for Tourism of Tuscany Region (Italy), to discuss some of the main challenges and opportunities for coastal and maritime tourism in the Mediterranean

1. From your perspective, what are the main challenges for coastal and maritime tourism in the Mediterranean? Furthermore, what steps should be taken in the coming years to efficiently tackle these challenges?

To remain a competitive destination, the Mediterranean must become a smart destination. This means promoting intelligence, sustainability and inclusive growth as well as to paying attention to international tourism trends and expectations. All of this must be done parallel to protecting and valuing our heritage and cultural identity. Recognising that environmental issues are key aspects does not mean that we must forget the economic and social aspects: tourists, businesses, workers and local populations have to be taken into consideration to build the attractiveness of a destination.  To be “smart” means also adopting intelligent solutions to manage tourism flows and to avoid overtourism. It means supporting an innovative and diversified touristic experience and to promote the attractiveness of the more inland which are close to seaside, as a way of contributing to de-seasonalisation. In this context, we must not forget to maintain clean seas and beaches as well as to guarantee their accessibility and usability. These are the pre-conditions to offer qualified services and events. Mediterranean destinations can count on a consolidated market, but we must stand in competition from growing destinations. The best way of doing so is to maintain high quality offers and to make sustainability a reality, not just as a slogan.

2. What are Tuscany Region’s actions in this regard?

Tuscany Region puts sustainability at the heart of its agenda. Just to give you an example: the new European law banning single-use plastics will come into force across all EU member states by 2021 and will help to reduce the plastic waste that currently pollutes our oceans and beaches. Tuscany Region had already in 2019 put this into practice, 2 years in advance: single-use plastics are already forbidden in our beaches. At the same time, we have signed an agreement with the fisherman business association to gain their support to recover plastics in the sea and to take joint actions. The European Commission recognised it as a good practice at European level.

I would like also mention the participatory and multi-stakeholders approach used by Tuscany Region to approve the Strategic Plan for Tourism – Destination Tuscany 2020, approved in the early 2017.  Public and private stakeholders have been actively involved to identify strategic visions, objectives and roadmaps. In addition to this, Tuscany Region widely supports the digitisation and innovation of tourism sector by using European and regional funds. 

3. In your opinion, what are the main opportunities for coastal and maritime tourism in the Mediterranean? How can Europe make the most of these opportunities? 

The Mediterranean basin is one of the main tourist areas in the world, despite strong competition from emerging destinations. We should better exploit opportunities coming from new markets, especially the Asian one.  These countries have expanded rapidly and are increasingly driving tourism growth thanks to rising levels of disposable income. People coming from China or India will not taste a different experience, reach of culture and tradition. At the same time, they will enjoy a different natural environment compared to their country of origin. We must support the internationalisation process of our businessess and to promote the attractiveness of our destinations.

4. Can you tell us how Tuscany is approaching these opportunities? 

Paying attention to the demand is one of the key elements for the international promotion strategy. The regional tourism system is diversifying its offer by offering touristic products that can satisfy every type of need. At the same time, we have to maintain the high level of our tourism by focusing on quality and sustainability. 

5. As you know, PANORAMED is a governance platform that promotes cooperation frameworks in the Mediterranean. Why is it important that European countries share knowledge in the field of coastal and maritime tourism? How can European countries enhance their cooperation in the future?

I think that we should have a common vision, since the Mediterranean is a “common good”. Despite the fact that some Mediterranean regions are competitors against each other as tourism destinations, we should take into consideration that major challenges could be better tackled though joint approaches. At the same time, the access to knowledge and solutions needs to be supported though ad hoc resources. In this sense, European funds dedicated to the Mediterranean regions help to adapt methodologies and tools as well as to implement them at local level. These will guarantee sustainability in the long term.

6. What is the importance of having collaboration and aligned actions between local, national and transnational actors in the field of coastal and maritime tourism? How is the Ministry ensuring collaboration at all levels?

As already expressed, a joint action and better co-ordination among different multi-level key actors would help to tackle major challenges and to produce relevant impact. Especially in such sector where competences are located at different levels. In Italy, the transfer from the Tourism Department of Ministry for Cultural Heritage to the Ministry for Agriculture, unfortunately, creates some stalemates in the process. In this context, the PANORAMED is activating a positive process where countries and regions can discuss and share positions, particularly on the tourism sector. Furthermore, the active participation of Regions is very relevant since they guarantee the proper hub with the local level and the involvement of local stakeholders.

7. What are your main recommendations to foster coastal and maritime tourism sustainable growth in Europe?

We are against the so called “touch and go tourism” which consumes without any added value. Our sea and our land are valuable assets to be protected.  They must be accessible to everybody. All public actions should go in this direction to create awareness among the behaviors of tourist and local populations.