On the eve of the opening of the ITB Berlin Tourism Fair, the World Wildlife Fund yesterday issued a warning about the increasingly negative impact of tourism development on the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean plays host to 220 million tourists annually, ten million of whom come to the Balearics alone, a figure projected to increase to 350 million in twenty years. This projected increase could lead to uncontrolled development of the entire Mediterranean basin, degrading the unique natural and cultural wealth of the region. The WWF believes that a new form of tourism must be introduced in the Mediterranean to ensure that the decline of nature is halted and reversed. WWF is therefore urging the tourism industry, from tour operators to local governments, to commit to responsible tourism development in the region. At a minimum this means adequate protection of the key areas for biodiversity conservation, no development in the most critical places within these areas and beneficial development to local communities. “The tourism industry has to reduce its impact on nature, if we want to save the mediterranean's unique heritage. By wrecking the valuable environment on which it depends, the tourism industry will be the ultimate loser,” said Peter DeBrine, Tourism Officer at WWF's Mediterranean Programme Office. According to an analysis presented today by WWF, in 2005 France, Italy and Spain will see a continued increase in tourism pressure while countries such as Morocco, Tunisia, Greece, Turkey and Croatia will experience a massive surge of new tourism development. Currently, mass tourism is one of the main drivers of coastal and marine degradation in the Mediterranean. Mass tourism causes enormous transformation of entire areas, leading to soil erosion, increased pollution discharges into the sea, natural habitat loss, increased pressure on endangered species and heightened vulnerability to forest fires. It puts a strain on water resources, an already thorny issue in the Balearics and the Mediterranean (for instance, an average Spaniards uses 250 litres of water per day while the average tourist uses up to 880 litres). It also often leads to cultural disruption and deterioration of attractive landscapes. Through inappropriate development practices, once pristine locations have been damaged, sometimes beyond repair. WWF is challenging the tourism industry to create a new model to halt this trend. WWF believes that there should be no further development in the absence of careful planning that includes a network of protected areas capable of safeguarding the region's biodiversity and the sustainable use of natural resources.

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