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Coastal and Maritime Tourism

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The following typologies can be distinguished by: i) location (coastal tourism and maritime tourism) and ii) sub-sector (beach tourism and water-based tourism).

Please note that cruise tourism is described in the sector fiche on Shipping and Ports, and not within the Coastal and Maritime Tourism topic.

Basic facts

  • Gross value added: € 183 billion[1]
  • State of the sector: Mature and growing[2]
  • Presence across sea basins: Dispersed throughout all sea basins, strong in the Mediterranean region and growing around the Baltic Sea and Atlantic Ocean[3]
  • Land-sea interaction present[4]
  • Strong seasonality[5]
  • Lifetime of installations depends on sub-sector
  • Semi-compatible with most uses[6]

Frequently asked questions

What are the present spatial needs of the coastal and maritime tourism sector?

Depending on the sub-sector, maritime and coastal tourism is both a linear and area based activity. In most cases maritime activities take place along the coastline as well as between the shore and on-water tourism activity areas[7], while for instance diving, snorkelling and underwater cultural heritage are place-based activities. The distance to shore is typically between zero and few km. Water depth depends on sub-sector needs and might be a crucial element for certain activities (e.g. water-based activities such as boating, yachting, nautical sports).

Although mass tourism is likely to stabilize or even decline in future, the spatial implication of this type of tourism will remain the same: direct use of sea space mainly along the coast, impacts on the sea environment and water quality in particular and environmental pressure on land are among the factors deserving special attention within MSP processes[8].

Which anticipated future developments of the industry are relevant to MSP?

Continued Growth: The expected continued growth in coastal tourism, both in terms of nights spent in coastal regions but also in number of tourists, has implications on onshore spatial planning mainly through the construction of new infrastructure and ports[9]. Thus, demand for additional infrastructure and services/activities is likely to increase with the growing success of high profile tourism, characterised by a relatively high volume of visitors, high level of quality and unique value[10].

Growth of so-called niche tourism (characterised by specific added-value services or locations) will strongly depend on holiday accommodation (e.g. accommodation in areas with rare sea birds). In turn, niche tourism is likely to impact areas with limited facilities and of high sensitivity, hence requiring specific infrastructures and innovative, yet spatially limited, solutions in e.g. natural and protected areas[11].

Environmental Impacts of Other Sectors: The environmental impacts of other sectors may impact coastal tourism; any maritime and land-based activity affecting environmental quality can in principle negatively affect this sector.

Adaptation to Climate Change: Coastal areas might be affected by a number of climate change related impacts (e.g. flooding, erosion, saltwater intrusion, increase in temperatures and periods of dry/drought) that can have direct and indirect effects on coastal and maritime tourism. Coastal defence is of prime importance to counter coastal erosion and flooding and maintain tourism facilities and activities.

Recommendations for MSP processes in support of the sector

Importance of Land-Sea Interaction: Land-sea interaction (LSI) aspects are highly important, as most of the needed infrastructure is land-based.

A tool for synergies with other sectors: MSP can be a tool to increase synergies with other maritime sectors.

Diversification: The tourism and recreation sector can benefit from diversification prompted by MSP through time, space and the introduction of new activities.

Stakeholder involvement: As the sector appears to be fragmented, MSP can create opportunities for bringing together different actors.

Synergies and economic gains for the sector: Having a sustainable environment should be seen as an enabler of synergies and a source of economic gains for the sector.

For more information

For more information, please visit:


[1] European Commission (2014). EC Communication: A European Strategy for More Growth And Jobs In Coastal And Maritime Tourism, Brussels, 20.2.2014 COM (2014) 86 final.…

[2] Ecorys (2016). Study on specific challenges for a sustainable development of coastal and maritime tourism in Europe.…

[3] Ibid.

[4] EU MSP Platform (2017).Maritime spatial planning: addressing land-sea interaction. [A briefing paper].…

[5] European Commission (2014).EC Communication: A European Strategy For More Growth And Jobs In Coastal And Maritime Tourism, Brussels, 20.2.2014 COM (2014) 86 final.…

[6] Ecorys (2012).Scenarios and drivers for sustainable growth from the oceans, seas and coasts.…

[7] Ecorys (2013). Study in support of policy measures for maritime and coastal tourism at EU level.…

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ecorys (2016). F Study on specific challenges for a sustainable development of coastal and maritime tourism in Europe.…

[10] Ecorys (2013). Study in support of policy measures for maritime and coastal tourism at EU level.…

[11] Ecorys (2016). Study on specific challenges for a sustainable development of coastal and maritime tourism in Europe.…

Frequently Asked Questions