On 31 May 2022, the WINTER MED project held its Final Project and Capitalisation Event "Shared Vision and Commitment for Sustainable Year-Round Tourism in Mediterranean Island Destinations and Beyond" in Rhodes and online. This final event gathered over 50 in-person and 70 online participants and was an opportunity to share the key results of a three-year cooperation under WINTER MED, as well as to invite high level stakeholders to exchange their views and react to the WINTER MED Policy Paper and its main recommendations. In Rhodes, four new organisations joined the WINTER MED philosophy and efforts by signing the Memorandum of Understanding.

The event started with Ms. Lorena Vidas, Project Manager at ANCI Toscana -WINTER MED Leader Partner - and Ms. Nagore Uresandi, CEO of IN2 Destinations and external expert, presenting the project’s main objectives and achievements over the last three years. These include the development of the Regional Action Plans (RAPs), a set of concrete actions and measures to tackle tourism seasonality developed by six partner regions, and the collaborative development of the Transnational Year-Round Strategy for Mediterranean Island Destinations.

The partnership has been working towards sustainable development in the Mediterranean region, with a particular focus on islands, transforming traditional tourism into a year-round sustainable economy. This project, carried out in a participatory way, developed tools to enable tourism stakeholders to become more competent in terms of sustainable tourism planning, as well as a transnational year-round tourism strategy. Finally, the project’s results were disseminated to the various European institutions as part of an advocacy campaign to disseminate its main results.

 

  • Replicating WINTER MED results

The Final Event included a Capacity Building Session inspired by the Handbook “Social and Economic regeneration of the Mediterranean after the crisis” produced by the Union for the Mediterranean and the CPMR's Intermediterranean Commission, WINTER MED partner. The latter proposes solutions to build a post-Covid 19 tourism sector.

During this Session guided by Mr. Michele Colavito, Consultant for of the Union for the Mediterranean, concrete results of Croatia’s pilot site and RAP were presented, and participants were invited to reflect on how to replicate the experience in their territories.

In this sense, speakers emphasized the importance of coordinating the actors, whether in the implementation of urban planning rules or in public policies. For instance, Mr. Georges Alexakis, Vice Governor of Crete, underlined the lack of competence of the Region of Crete to influence urban planning policies.

Ms. Elena Conti -Head of the Europe Office at ANCI Toscana- and Ms. Nagore Uresandi stressed the importance of working in close collaboration with the private sector, as the implementation of year-round sustainable tourism in the Mediterranean islands requires the joint work of all stakeholders.

 

  • Reacting to WINTER MED Policy Recommendations

One of the main objectives of this event was to share and discuss the WINTER MED Policy Paper, which aims to integrate the project’s results into public policies. This document advocates for a common commitment of tourism stakeholders and different governance levels to a "Year-round Tourism Strategy for the Mediterranean Islands".

During this session, Ms. Josianne Cutajar, MEP & Vice-Chair of the SEArica Intergroup stressed that the Mediterranean islands must be at the center of the European Union's digital revolution, in the framework of the “2030 Digital Target”. She highlighted the potential of Mediterranean islands to become testbeds for European projects which could then be replicated and adapted to other regions in Europe.

Ms. Valentina Superti, Director of Tourism and Proximity at the DG GROW of the European Commission, pointed out that the WINTER MED project and its policy recommendations align perfectly with the vision of the European Commission and in particular the guidelines established by the Tourism Transition Pathway.  This report sets out measures and recommendations to accelerate the green transition and improve the resilience of European tourism. She also highlighted the fact that the Mediterranean islands could allow for the development of pilot projects for residents and visitors, to experiment with fully circular and climate friendly ways of operating.

Then Mr. Savvas Perdios, Deputy Minister of Tourism of Cyprus, briefly presented the National Strategy for Tourism of Cyprus, to convert the country into a year-round destination, one of higher quality, digitally smart, climate-friendly and whose residents can fully benefit from tourism.

Dr. Houcine Jrad, Mayor of Houmet Essouk, in Djerba Island (Tunisia), introduced a study that aims to make the island transition to an attractive, sustainable, and competitive destination, through a participatory approach and cultural heritage promotion.  He acknowledged the relevance of WINTER MED and committed to integrate the efforts of the project in his territory.

Mr. Georges Alexakis, Vice Governor of Crete, then detailed the Action Plan for Crete Island to improve tourism offer in Crete, linking public and private actors.

Mr. Thomas Guillot from NECSTouR, highlighted the alignment of WINTER MED with the Barcelona Declaration principle “Better Places to live, better places to visit”.

Finally, Mrs. Pascale Fauveau-Lagaye, Project officer at the Interreg Euro-MED Programme, presented the new programme structure in which sustainable tourism is considered a cross-cutting mission and which brings WINTER MED partners a new opportunity to continue strengthening their cooperation.

 

  • New signatories to the WINTER MED Memorandum of Understanding

The WINTER MED Memorandum of Understanding aims to ensure the continuity of the transnational and multi-stakeholder dynamic of cooperation initiated by the project. Signing the Memorandum is an opportunity to benefit from the support of the WINTER MED partners in the commitment to take actions for the development of sustainable all-year-round tourism.

During the final event, different actors proceeded to the signature of the Memorandum of Understanding: Mr. Christos Bardos, Vice Governor of Culture and European Projects of the South Aegean Region, Mr. Thanasis Virinis, Deputy Mayor for Tourism of the municipality of Rhodes, Mrs. Maritana Alakiotou, Representative and Board Member of the Chamber of Commerce of the Dodecanese and the Cyclades and Mr. Houcine Jrad, Mayor of the municipality of Houmet Essouk in the Djerba Island in Tunisia.

With these signatures and some others that followed the days after the event - Asociación Hotelera de Palma de Mallorca, SMEs Federation of Palma de Mallorca (PIMEM) & Turistec International Cluster- the WINTER MED MoU has already gathered the support of 29 organizations.  

Closing the event, Mr. Ioannis Minatsis, CEO of READ S.A. underlined the resilience of this partnership, one which has achieved its objectives despite the COVID-19 crisis. This project has created momentum and opened new horizons for tourism planning.

The event was followed by a Study Visit the day after in the island of Rhodes. Participants had the opportunity to discover different products, which contribute to deseasonalise the tourism sector, such as wedding tourism facilities and other cultural initiatives focused on the assets of the Medieval city of Rhodes. With this final event WINTER MED takes one of its last steps before its official closure in June 2022. However, all parties have committed to ensure further collaboration for a deseasonalised Mediterranean tourism beyond this date.