How to Make the Tourism Sector More Climate Resilient

June 1, 2016

Regional conference in preparation for COP 22

Marrakech, June 1, 2016 – The Mediterranean Basin, a cradle of civilization and top international tourism destination, attracts around 200 million visitors every year. This influx combined with climate change is posing a growing threat to the fragile ecosystems and natural resources on both sides of the Mediterranean. The World Bank is organizing a regional conference on “Regional Development and Tourism Transition in a Changing Climate in the Mediterranean” to discuss this issue in the lead-up to the 22nd Conference of the Parties on climate change (COP 22). The conference will be held in Marrakech on June 1 and 2, 2016 in association with the Hassan II Academy of Science and Technology and a number of Moroccan universities and Mediterranean and international research centers.

Recent climate change studies report that the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has been hard hit by the effects of climate change and will face a growing climate threat if nothing is done to make the region more climate resilient. These studies warn that the price of inaction will be high with a 10% reduction in the supply of running water by 2050 combined with increasing recurrent droughts and a surge in temperatures. The Maghreb countries, with their particularly tourism-dependent economies and especially acute water shortages in the summer, call for more sustainable, rational water resource management to guarantee a constant supply in tourism destinations, especially in the high season.

In the face of this alarming situation, tourism sector experts and climate change scientists from both sides of the Mediterranean are meeting today to consider how to make sector policymaking more climate smart. As Taoufiq Bennouna, World Bank Senior Environment Specialist, puts it, “We are seeing a huge gap between the knowledge acquired on climate change and its use in public policies and decision-making. This conference aims to raise stakeholder awareness to mainstream climate change into regional development policies and make this sector a driver for virtuous development that will reduce the pressure on natural resources and form a real source of income for the populations and economies.”

The conference will also explore the role of climate finance in setting up ecotourism projects, especially in remote areas with the natural capital to be able to generate green jobs. It will seek to pinpoint the main climate and environmental constraints on tourism destinations in the MENA region and identify the possibilities for sustainable finance.

In Morocco, which aims to attract up to 20 million tourists by 2020, the sector’s development policies are increasingly responsive to climate change constraints, especially in their water management. Morocco will be well placed at the conference to share its experience and success stories in this area, especially with the Qariati program to promote responsible rural tourism.

As Marie Françoise Marie-Nelly, World Bank Country Director for the Maghreb and Malta, concludes, “Climate change is a growing threat that could eventually damage the Mediterranean Basin countries’ economies, and the tourism sector is just one example of this. So there is an urgent need for a wake-up call and especially for climate change to be mainstreamed into the Basin countries’ regional development and decentralization strategies.”

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