What are the main impacts of Coastal Tourism?

Coastal tourism is the largest sector in Europe’s Blue Economy with around 2.127 million persons directly employed in 2016. It accounted for 40% of GVA and 60% of the employment in the Blue Economy in 2018 and its share has risen over time. Coastal municipalities make up only 15% of the land area of the European Union however, 47% of all nights in paid accommodation are spent there.

Coastal tourism offers good opportunities for new entrants to the labour market but the work is often temporary, seasonal and poorly paid. This is why the primary objectives of the European Commission’s 2014 Strategy for Coastal and Marine Tourism alongside reducing the sectors environmental footprint was to minimize the precariousness and increase the number of high value jobs. 

THE ESPON project MSP-LSI conducted a value chain analysis of coastal tourism based on a number of case studies, including the Pomeranian Bight and the Gulf of Gdansk. The findings illustrate that in all cases coastal tourism was the most important local economic sector as all areas were important destinations for national and international tourists.

The case of the Pomeranian Bight

Coastal tourism is an important economic activity in the Pomeranian Bight (DE/PL) on both sides of the border. In Germany, the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is the number one destination for tourists and within this region, the Baltic coast is the most popular area. 95% of visitors are German tourists, with the remaining mainly coming from Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Austria.

In 2018, tourism in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern hit an all-time high of 30.9 million overnight stays - a rise of 9.7% since 2010. The tourist industry in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern accounts for 17.8% of employment in the region or 131,300 employees, overtaking local employment in manufacturing, health and social care. The local significance of the sector is also illustrated by the fact that 2/5 of the total retail sales in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern can be traced back to travellers and visitors.

On the Polish side of the Pomeranian Bight, the Zachodniopomorskie region is considered being among the most tourist-attractive in Poland for both national and foreign tourists. It leads nationally in terms of the number of beds, the number of tourists, as well as the number of overnight stays. In July and August 2018, over 4 million tourists stayed in the region, an increase of almost 10% compared to the previous year. Over 75% of these visitors were from Poland. Foreign visitors were mainly from Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Ukraine. The tourism sector in Zachodniopomorskie employed 18,195 people in 2015.

The case of the Gulf of Gdansk

The Pomorskie Vovoideship in the Gulf of Gdansk ranks second in Poland in terms of the number of bed places per square kilometre, with available accommodation facilities increasing every year.In 2017, tourism generated approximately 16,800 jobs in the region. 9,600 people were employed in the accommodation and gastronomy sectors and 7,200 in activities related to culture, entertainment and recreation.

The Pomorskie region accommodated 2.9 million tourists in 2017, with the vast majority of them visiting and staying in coastal areas. Most visits were from other parts of Poland, but 20% (556,000) were foreign tourists, with most of them arriving from neighbouring countries notably Germany, Norway and Sweden.

Key findings of the case studies

The analysis of the case studies highlighted some key messages:

  • In all the case study areas Coastal Tourism was the most significant economic sector in terms of local employment, with high levels of local ‘stickability’ of associated economic benefits.
  • Identification of coastal tourist home locations revealed the very extensive (international, national and regional) spatial connections of all of the case study areas.
  • All areas experienced a strong concentration of visitors in the summer months.
  • Most visitors tended to arrive by car. Consequently, the provision of more sustainable transportation networks (public transport, cycling and walking), for travel to and from tourist destinations and visiting locations during tourist stays is a key territorial planning consideration.
  • Improving the sustainability of coastal tourism and extending the range and seasonality of services for coastal tourists are key concerns for tourism development strategies at all levels of governance.  

Land Sea Interactions and terrestrial planning

Terrestrial planning and better governance could support the sustainable development of coastal tourism. It is important for these areas to develop processes that facilitate the integration of plans for land and sea and engage key actors associated with the sector. Likewise, taking into account the different impacts of Land-Sea Interactions (LSI) on the socio-economic life and on the environment is key. Some of the key LSI interactions within the coastal tourism value chain are presented below: 

Socio-economic LSIs may include:

  • Impacts on income and job creation focused in coastal communities (direct employment in accommodation at tourist destinations and secondary employment related to travel to and from tourist home locations and holiday activities);
  • Competition for coastal space with sectors such as port development; offshore energy production and aquaculture,
  • impact on fish stocks, potentially leading to changes in commercial fishing activities and  subsequent impact on fishermen’s income, jobs and fishing communities

Bio-geo chemical LSIs may include:

  • Intensive use of space and resources which may lead to poor water and environmental quality related to pollution, noise or species’ disturbance;
  • Building new marinas, piers or berths and impact on marine and coastal habitats;
  • Impact on fish stocks

Technical LSIs may include:

  • Innovation in terms of infrastructure to limit environmental pressures;
  • Provision of suitable access of boating locations (access to marinas, boat ramps, moorings);
  • Impacts on land infrastructure (including energy, transport, water, waste management, collection and disposal)

You can read more about the ESPON project MSP-LSI on our website