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When The Mediterranean Coast Went MIA & Sustainable Tourism Helped Find It

By Stefy Ali

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Every summer a feeling of hopelessness for the future of mankind knocks at my door. It stands there unshaken, no matter how many times I yell I’m not interested, until I finally give in and let my emotions come out to embrace it. What brings it back in town?

Summer vacations in the Mediterranean, hi.

Of course. How could I forget?

For those of you who have never been to this corner of the world, here’s the recurring picture: every summer, the crystalline waters and smooth, welcoming sands of the Mediterranean go MIA for about three months.

Any clues as to what caused their disappearance?

They never left, they never even moved. They’ve just been covered, head to toe, by a human shield of tourists.

As every summer, a plethora of tourists are released into the friendly creeks of Southern Europe, they behave like children who, after being deprived for years in an absurdly strict boarding school, see an ice cream truck and run all at once for their El Dorado.  Even though the velvety Mediterranean coast is swallowed by the monster of mass tourism for only a few months a year, the effects of its disappearance are hard-felt, long-lasting, and brutal to the South.

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The EU projects about 350 million tourists in the Mediterranean each year by 2020 – Spain, France, Italy, and Greece receive almost 80% of Mediterranean tourism, and 1/3 of all international tourism income. Arrivals in Greece alone have doubled in the last ten years, and the country is now having to cope with the influx of three times its population. There isn’t any doubt tourism is a high source of revenues for the Mediterranean (25% of Greece’s GDP and projected labor market, according to WTTC), but it’s also one of the main forces of ecological destruction of a region highly esteemed for its outstanding biodiversity and rich cultural heritage.

With its massive scale, tourism ravages landscapes and biodiversity, causes soil erosions, increases waste and pollution discharge, endangers species, drains water resources, and leads to cultural disruption.

So how can we fight the monster that – let’s be honest – we all helped create?

Sustainable tourism is an effective measure, and it asks us not to stay home, but to travel more responsibly. We can do so by preferring local products, respecting the culture, and by making sure to maintain the ecological processes that are vital to the biodiversity of the area.

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While retracing the steps of the missing Mediterranean coast this summer, I also discovered eco-friendly hotels that honor the principles of sustainable tourism who have implemented environmental and social-cultural programs. To name just a few that stole my heart:

This new wave of eco-friendly hotels use bioclimatic architecture, solar-powered water, or even nontoxic building materials. They employ strict waste policies and natural bedding while also doing charity work with the local communities. Eskies, for example, works with Boroume, a local charity that takes leftover food and shares it with people in need.

The efforts made towards sustainable tourism gave me hope for a brighter future and even just enough strength to stop hopelessness from entering the living room of my head. If we all come together, soon enough, the coast might be able to breathe again and the case of its disappearance will be closed. Until then, it is said we might glimpse the coast from time to time, when it emerges for some light meze by the ports.

 

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