Tourism in the Mediterranean

As we are already in the last month of summer and many of our readers are likely charging their batteries in one of the Mediterranean’s beauty spots, let’s have a look at how tourism has evolved in the region in the last 20 years.

 

From strength to strength

Over the decades, tourism has become one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world, a key driver for socio-economic progress and a key income source for many countries. The Mediterranean region, with its rich history and unrivalled natural beauty, has long been  one of the top tourism destinations in the world, hosting more than 320 million tourists in 2015 – more than double the number recorded in 1995.

However, the levels and growth rates vary vastly across different countries. The larger European countries (France, Spain, Italy and Greece), have consistently ranked in the top five Med countries for tourist arrivals, with Greece and Spain seeing more than double the number of arrivals during the period.  However, the most impressive growth rates were observed in Turkey, Croatia and Albania. By 2015, all three countries were among the top countries in the region in terms of tourist arrivals, with Turkey seeing tourist numbers increasing nearly 4-fold and becoming the 4th most popular tourist destination in the Mediterranean. 

   
  
 
  
    
  
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   Source: World Bank. International inbound tourists, or overnight visitors, are tourists who travel to a country, other than their usual residence, for a period not exceeding 12 months and their main purpose is not an activity remunerated within the country visited. The data refers to the number of arrivals, not the number of people traveling, i.e. a person might be counted more than once. It should also be noted that published statistics for Syria have been considered unreliable since the start of the war, and thus the figures above should be treated with caution.

Source: World Bank. International inbound tourists, or overnight visitors, are tourists who travel to a country, other than their usual residence, for a period not exceeding 12 months and their main purpose is not an activity remunerated within the country visited. The data refers to the number of arrivals, not the number of people traveling, i.e. a person might be counted more than once. It should also be noted that published statistics for Syria have been considered unreliable since the start of the war, and thus the figures above should be treated with caution.

The rest of this post takes a closer look at some of the Med countries that managed to turn tourism from a relatively minor sector to a major engine for growth.

 

Morocco’s rise

Back in 1995, Morocco had fewer tourist arrivals than Egypt and Tunisia and had the 3rd lowest number among the Med countries of North Africa (no data available for Libya in 1995). In 2015, after 20 years of constant growth, Morocco almost tripled the number of tourist arrivals and outstripped all other North African countries – and based on MGI forecasts, this gap is set to widen further in coming years.

In contrast to Morocco, the other three North African countries with a significant tourism sector have taken steps backwards in recent years.

Egypt reached a peak in tourist arrivals in 2010, but since then the number has declined sharply following political and social upheaval. Algeria had the lowest number of tourist arrivals among countries of this group (bar Libya) during the entire period from 1995 to 2015, and the number is forecast to decline further in the next few years (MGI forecasts). 

 

Croatia and Albania flying high

Looking at the smallest Med countries (population under 10 million), Albania and Lebanon began with the lowest number of tourist arrivals in 1995, but have since experienced remarkable growth. Albania has outperformed every single Med country during the past 25 years, seeing a 13-fold increase in the number of tourists it hosts.

Croatia’s rise has also been impressive, and with over 12 million tourists visiting the country in 2015 and year-on-year increases that show no sign of abating, it may soon be able to challenge the ‘big five’ as one of the most popular destinations in the Med.

Notably, Malta, Cyprus and Israel, the top destinations in this group in 1995, have grown slowly since, as other countries in the region have more rapidly upgraded their offering to lure visitors away from these more traditional destinations.

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