CPMR: Granada hosts a big momentum for enhanced Mediterranean Tourism Governance: BEST MED & SMARTMED projects joining forces for their final steps

Last September 14th, the CPMR Intermediterranean Commission (CPMR-IMC) co-organised BEST MED & SMARTMED Projects Final Events. Policy recommendations on smart tourism development and improved knowledge-based decision making were showcased, and High-Level speakers from EU institutions and Mediterranean regions were invited to reflected on them. Now, the CPMR-IMC encourages Regional Authorities and tourism stakeholders to endorse the strategic documents produced and engage in concrete actions for smarter and better-integrated tourism governance in their region and in the Mediterranean.

Under the eyes of the Alhambra, the city of Granada hosted a momentum for enhanced Mediterranean Tourism Governance with the organisation of the double final event of BEST MED & SMARTMED, for which the CPMR-IMC is full partner. First on the agenda was the BEST MED Capitalisation Conference which kickstarted recalling the project’s objective: to foster a new integrated and sustainable touristic planning aiming at the mitigation of seasonality, putting special attention to the role played and opportunities offered by cultural tourism and tourism data collection and management. This session served precisely to present these main achievements and results of the project to tackle these issues, namely  the BEST MED Sustainable Path & Cultural Route Model, the BEST MED Open Platform and the MED Network of National and Regional Sustainable Tourism Observatories (MED NSTO).Ms. Wohlmuther, Coordinator at the Sustainable Development of Tourism of the UNWTO, who insisted on the importance of observatories dialogue and the complementarity between the MED NSTO and the UNWTO’s own International Network of Sustainable Tourism Observatories.

The day continued with a Joint Strategic Policy Session of BEST MED and SMARTMED which started with presentations of the two projects’ policy recommendations for a strategic sustainable tourism planning and management in the Mediterranean. They provided food for thought and triggered a discussion on how to put the results and policy recommendations of the two Interreg MED strategic projects under the spotlight of EU debates and initiatives on sustainable and smart tourism. Hence, Ms. Genzbigelyte-Venturi, Policy Officer at the DG GROW European Commission highlighted the synergies between the projects’ recommendations and the Transition Pathway for Tourism to support the upskilling of tourism workforce, insisting on the EU Pact for Skills.

The afternoon was dedicated to the SMARTMED Technical Capitalisation Session which offered an overview of the SMARTMED project main achievements and future opportunities to capitalise on its results.  SMARTMED was set up to foster a transition towards a smarter and more empowered tourism in the Mediterranean with the design of innovative governance tools. Therefore, Prof. Priante, Director of the UNWTO Department for Europe showcased the most critical challenges faced by the tourism industry in the region and pinpointed some solutions very much aligned with SMARTMED actions- i.e., boosting digital skills, making jobs more attractive and engaging with youth. She acknowledged the highly relevant work delivered by SMARTMED to support efforts in that direction and tackle the current labor workforce shortage in the tourism industry. Following on, key project outputs including the SMART Tourism Business Model and the SMARTMED E-learning Platform, were presented, as well as new European funding opportunities to build on the SMARTMED legacy. The day was nicely concluded with the signature ceremony of the SMARTMED Memorandum of Understanding where 5 new entities -among which 3 CPMR-IMC regions: l’Oriental (Morocco), Shkodër (Albania) & Murcia (Spain)- adhered the MoU committing to continue the cooperation for coordinated integrated tourism action and planning and the development of smarter and more empowered Mediterranean Tourism.

What is in for your region? Transforming BEST MED & SMARTMED results into recommendations ready to feed public policies

Policy recommendations condense the most valuable subtracts of these 3-year long projects and are of highly relevant for regions working towards a smarter and integrated sustainable tourism model. The BEST MED Granada Charter gathers the project’s recommendations and notably points out the benefits of developing Cultural Routes within the regions to favour the connection between coastal and hinterland destinations. Such Routes foster a more balanced distribution of tourist flows across the territory, reduce over tourism in coastal areas, and mitigate the perverse effects of seasonality. In line with it, the Charter also pledges for the development of a participatory approach and cooperation, crucial for a sustainable monitoring and an efficient governance of tourism at regional level. It entails to gather around the table multiple actors from different governance levels, including public and private entities research organisations, civil society, and others relevant stakeholders. Last, levering data sharing, harmonisation, and interoperability is no trifling matter to unlock the power of evidence-based decision making at regional level and improve governance. The Charter urges to promote standard for tourism data collection and to support the development of the MED NSTO which connects more than 22 tourism observatories across the basin.

On the other hand, SMARTMED policy recommendations target the empowerment and innovation of the tourism sector based on the project’s results and findings in particular the ones gathered in the Smart Tourism Business Model. They notably stress the need to further develop digital innovation ecosystems at the regional administrations level, and to that end, encourage the establishment of Regional Smart Tourism Hubs. Another relevant recommendation for regional authorities consists in developing job and training opportunities for the tourism sector all-year round with special focuses on smart skills specialisation and entrepreneurship. Without forgetting incentives and job perspectives that should be developed for local young people for long-term sustainable employment with competitive wages and skilled jobs, therefore preventing out-migration and brain-drain. Finally, the establishment of interdepartmental cooperation mechanisms and cross sectoral dialogue at regional level is strongly recommended.

How to engage your region? BEST MED & SMARTMED key documents in a nutshell, from commitment to action

The BEST MED project came out with the Granada Charter, a steering document to pave the way towards a governance framework that promotes sustainable and resilient tourism ecosystems in the whole Mediterranean area. Four pillars support the Charter’s vision: 1) the willingness to use, promote and share the instruments and resources of the project 2) the commitment to work toward the implementation of a multi-level and sectorial governance, 3) the common desire to jointly ramp up transnational efforts on data and good practices sharing, hence contributing to the consolidation of the MED NSTO, and 4)  the engagement to continuously collaborate  with EU, national, regional actors to contribute to a greener, more resilient, and inclusive Europe that protects cultural and natural assets. Does your region share this vision? The signature of the Charter is open for formal adhesions to Authorities/Entities supporting its principles and will remain open beyond the closure of the BEST MED project.

Moreover, to support the consolidation of the MED Network of Sustainable Tourism Observatories the project is in the process of gaining adhesions to the MED NSTO Memorandum of Understanding, a short document to be signed by Mediterranean tourism observatories and other entities working with tourism data and willing to become members of the MED NSTO. Do you know any interested entity in your territory? Signing this document observatories across the basin can join forces and help our regions improve decision-based policy making.

On another note, the SMARTMED Memorandum of Understanding has already been endorsed by 22 regions and entities. This MoU mainly commits tourism policymakers in the implementation of the Smart Tourism Business Model developed by the project and offering a joint strategic MED vision for empowered and smarter tourism. Signing the Memorandum of Understanding is an excellent opportunity to benefit from the support and experience of the SMARTMED partnership. For instance, the signatories will be able to get inspiration from SMARTMED’s experience and concrete tools for the development of a smart tourism strategy in their territories or to join the project’s efforts implementing the Smart Tourism Business Model in their area of action.

Should your region be interested in adhering the Granada Charter and/or the SMARTMED Memorandum of Understanding, please contact maria.garcies@crpm.org.

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