Mr Andrew Agius Muscat, Secretary General of the Mediterranean Tourism Foundation (MTF), and CEO of Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA), was one of the guest speakers contributing on how to ‘promote the Green and Sustainable transition on Territories and Regions’ as part of the High-Level Forum for a Sustainable Tourism, organised by the Portuguese Presidency of the EU Council.
The panellist of the ‘Environment and Territory’ panel, which was moderated by Sérgio Ribeiro, CEO of Planetiers and included, Thomas Reynaert, Managing Director of Airlines for Europe (A4E), Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović, Secretary General of Europa Nostra, Laia Bonet Rull, Chair of the Knowledge Society Forum of Eurocities and Deputy Mayor at Barcelona City Council, Leonor Picão, Senior Director of Tourism Supply Development at Turismo de Portugal, Marta Cabral, CEO and Director of Rota Vicentina Association, Alberto Mazzola, Executive Director of Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER), Tomi Ilijaš, CEO & founder of Tourism 4.0 Slovenia, Arctur Dirk Glaesser, Director of the Sustainable Development of Tourism Department at the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), debated the challenges of a green transition in the tourism sector, territorial cohesion and social inclusion and its importance to new approaches in tourism and paving the way towards a sustainable future.
Mr Agius Muscat stated that the objective of the Mediterranean Tourism Foundation is to be a vehicle for peace and stability across the Mediterranean region, by bringing together key stakeholders from all over the world, with an interest on the Mediterranean Tourism, through three main pillars, which are Dialogue, Education and Projects. He added that “the Mediterranean region is rich in diversity and is the most important region for the tourism industry”.
Mr Agius Muscat remarked that pre-COVID-19 times, we were discussing over tourism and mismanagement of tourism within this region, as tourism was growing so fast that was creating big challenges on various societies.
“COVID-19 has brought a reset to the system and has put all the countries around the Mediterranean region on their knees and now we must look on the way forward”.
Mr Agius Muscat said that ‘Sustainability’ is the key word for the recovery. But how can this be more relevant and accessible to our people?”
He remarked that there are three main points that we must consider, on how we can address sustainability:
- The first point is ‘Innovation’. He said that by creating new tourism products, namely more cultural and more music projects, tourism will become a by-product. He emphasised that there is the need to change the perspective of how we are creating things by using and promoting technology in a way to enhance the experience of the people who visit us.
- The second point is the aspect of ‘Green’. Sometimes, when we discuss green initiatives, the first thing that comes to our mind is that this is a burden. He added that we need to promote green initiatives as an investment. We need to start presenting and explaining green initiatives to the people who are taking decisions and making the changes in our society, that such an investment is important to prevent situations like the one we are all currently experiencing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The third point is that we are all ‘Equal’. The countries of the European union are all equal, but most important is that we are also different, which is our biggest advantage. Mr Agius Muscat said that “Before we start talking about regulations, new directives, and other initiatives, we must keep in mind that we are all different, and in doing this, any action that will be promoted must be to create and enhance synergies between us all”.
Mr Agius Muscat remarked that Islands have a different reality from mainland Europe. If we talk about connectivity, the Mediterranean islands, like Malta, can only be reached through air and sea, while countries in mainland Europe, have railways connectivity. Most of the time, we promote trains as a fantastic means of transport and more environmentally friendly however this means of transport does not work for the Mediterranean islands.
“So, it is great to discuss legislations and directives for green initiatives, on how to achieve decarbonisation within the industries, but we must always keep in my mind our realities.”
In conclusion, Mr Agius Muscat remarked that “Post COVID pandemic, we need to focus more our energies on the recovery, but we need to be less rhetoric and act faster in implementing the necessary actions that needs to be taken”.