From 1990 to 2010, the 11 countries of the south-eastern Mediterranean region (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Occupied Palestinian Territory, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey, hereafter SMCs) recorded the highest growth rates in inbound world tourism. In the same period, domestic tourism in these countries also increased rapidly, which is astonishing given the security risks, natural disasters, oil prices rises and economic uncertainties in the region. Even the 2008 financial crisis had no severe impact on this growth, confirming the resilience of tourism and the huge potential of the SMCs in this sector. The Arab Spring brought this trend to an abrupt halt in early 2011, but it may resume after 2014 with the gradual democratisation process, despite the economic slowdown of the European Union – its main market.
This paper looks at whether this trend will continue up to 2030, and provides four different possible scenarios for the development of the tourism sector in SMCs for 2030: i) reference scenario, ii) common (cooperation) sustainable development scenario, iii) polarised (regional) development scenario and iv) failed development – decline and conflict – scenario. In all cases, international and domestic tourist arrivals will increase. However, three main factors will strongly influence the development of the tourism sector in the SMCs: security, competitiveness linked to the efficient use of ICT, and adjustment to climate change.
Robert Lanquar is a former civil servant of the UN World Tourism Organization and professor at a number of universities, specialising in Mediterranean issues.