In keeping with global transitions, the Mediterranean region is moulding its tourism industry according to the emerging trends of a new breed of traveller. Emily Millett writes.
The tourism sector has long been a key socio-economic pillar in the Mediterranean region, with both leisure and business activities playing significant roles in its success. The vast area is poised for further growth and development this year, with tourism figures predicted to see an increase across many of the destinations that call this region home.
Commenting on the statistics in Morocco, general manager, Mazagan Beach & Golf Resort, Sergio Pereira said: “It is forecast that more than 420 million people will visit the region by 2020. Morocco is one of the favourite Mediterranean tourist destinations and this is evident in the immense tourist arrivals to the country. As per the figures released by Morocco’s Tourism Observatory, close to eight million tourists travelled to Morocco by July 2019, up 8.2 per cent from the same period in 2018.”
The growth rate is also up in Catalonia, where – according to director general of tourism, Catalan Tourism Board, Octavi Bono – last year, a four per cent revenue increase from tourism was witnessed. In the last 10 years, the number of international arrivals also increased 1.4 times and now amounts to 19.2 million.
“For us, 2020 will be a year in which we shall continue to develop the initiatives that have arisen from our strategic marketing plan, with a view to meeting the challenges we face as a sector and becoming one of the three best Mediterranean tourism regions by applying a responsible growth strategy,” Bono told TTG.
“In the Mediterranean, we have experienced very significant shifts in demand, with sociodemographic changes catalysing the appearance of new sectors and new habits; a huge evolution in distribution and marketing systems; greater sensitivity to sustainability; as well as technological evolution and innovation,” he added.
NEW MARKETS AND NEW TRENDS
Not resting on the laurels of its popularity amongst travellers, the Mediterranean region is keeping abreast of these changing habits and demands, in a bid to guarantee it maintains its leading position.
“Our guests nowadays are looking to spend time in authentic properties, which bring the local culture to their doorstep with a personalised quality of service,” general manager, COMO Castello Del Nero, Giuseppe Artolli told TTG. “They also want to experience something authentic and customised.”
In response, COMO Castello Del Nero offers a wealth of destination specific experiences, including wine harvesting and truffle hunting with a local hunter and his dog. The hotel is set to be closed until April due to the full refurbishment of the spa and pool restaurant, as well as the introduction of a new panoramic garden terrace.
The quest for authentic local and gastronomic experiences in the Med has also led local Croatian cruiseline and DMC, Katarina Line, to launch new itineraries.
Explaining the catalyst for the initiative, cruise department manager and board member, Katarina Line, Anamaria Hauptfeld Schweitzer said: “More people are looking to socialise with the locals and are interested in local customs and food, but also in active holidays and not staying in the same destination for too long.”
And with these changing needs, the industry inevitably changes too: “Croatia was once a summer holiday destination, where tourists would stay for seven days in one spot; now people are moving around and exploring more on their own. They want a more active holiday during which they can learn more about the country and the people, and there is now more focus on year-round tourism in Croatia and the whole Mediterranean,” she added.
Katarina Line’s new land and sea programmes offer local, regionally diverse experiences that often explore lesser known destinations and aim to provide exclusive insights into some of Croatia’s finest hotels, vineyards and gourmet spots. On the cruising front, the company recently launched a new itinerary linking Croatia and Montenegro by sea, while new specialised cruise journeys – such as a rock-climbing cruise and a new eco-cruise around the islands – have also been launched.
With eco initiatives in mind, at Mazagan Beach & Golf Resort in Morocco, sustainable tourism is another major trend, according to Pereira.
“In Morocco, measures have been taken to protect the country’s treasured historical sites and traditions. At Mazagan, environmental sustainability is part of our core values, and thus, we have aligned our processes and operations to achieve our goals,” he shared.
Meanwhile, in Turkey, Çıragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul has plans to work on creating new potential markets and services this year, in response to the growing trend for family and multi-generational travel.
Commenting on the trends that the property is set to focus on for 2020 was its director of business development, Nazli Isikli: “For 2020, we expect to see an increase in family visits combining more than one destination for longer stays and an increasing need to enjoy local experiences and feel the sense of place. Providing personalised service is even more important nowadays, while the demand for healthy living and natural products is rising.”
DEVELOPING THE INFRASTRUCTURE
While the Mediterranean can generally be considered a developed region in tourism terms – having long enjoyed the financial returns of its popularity as a destination for a broad spectrum of travellers – the area is still in a constant state of evolution.
In Turkey, there are currently many infrastructural developments underway, according to Isıklı, including the new cruise-ship port, Galataport.
“Galataport is expected to welcome its first cruise ship in April 2020 after five years of construction”, Isıklı told TTG. “Galataport is projected to host a total of 64 cruise ships in 2020 and 145 cruise ships in 2021. When the project is finished, the port will welcome 1.5 million visitors, including crew, and will energise cruise ship tourism activities from the Mediterranean up to the Black Sea.”
Meanwhile, on the aviation front, significant development is in the pipeline for Catalonia, where Barcelona-El Prat airport is now nearing maximum capacity.
Speaking on future plans for the hub was Bono: “We have to set about involving and boosting other nearby airports that are capable of offering the necessary service. Efficient access to a tourist destination is definitely a basic element for competitiveness and requires much consideration.”
And zooming into Morocco once again, mega infrastructural and tourism projects are currently ongoing or in the pipeline, in line with the objectives of the Ministry of Tourism’s Vision 2020 to double the size of Morocco’s tourism industry, according to Pereira, who explained: “We also expect to see an additional 200,000 beds in the hospitality sector in the coming years, amidst increased tourist arrivals to the country’s popular sites.”
In terms of new hotel accommodation in the Med, Malta was set to welcome The Malta Marriott Hotel & Spa to its portfolio in January this year, following a huge renovation investment. Located in the town of St. Julian’s, just a 20-minute drive from the island’s capital, Valletta, the beachside property offers 301 rooms, as well as a variety of restaurants and bars, indoor and outdoor pools, a fully equipped spa and fitness centre, and dedicated conference facilities.
In Italy, Palazzo Doglio is set to open at the end of February in Caglieri, Sardinia. A member of Leading Hotels of the World, the property will feature 72 rooms, a courtyard with a mix of dining options and boutiques, a spa and a theatre for concerts and events.
The Med is working to keep up with trends and develop its infrastructure, in a bid to prove its place as one of the world’s leading regions.