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Master programme 'Intelligent Coast'

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The Catalan Example: capacity building for sustainable coastal tourism

Europe and tourism development

The continuous degradation of Europe’s coasts threatens European living standards. Urban sprawl, resort and port development are directly affecting ecosystems. These environmental changes in coastal areas are driven by increased living standards and recreation practices. In this sense, tourism development in many coastal regions can be considered responsible for altering the potential long-term viability of coastal ecosystems. Therefore new strategies to develop Capacity Building in the frame of ICZM are a major priority to avoid further irreversible environmental changes and the uncontrolled growth of artificial surfaces along European coastal areas.

The example of the Catalonian coast

Catalonia is the most visited autonomous community of Spain, which itself is the second-place country in terms of number of tourists and income generated by tourism. Catalonia is recognised as one of the world's best and most experienced coastal laboratories.

In the 21st century, tourism will continue to encourage the discovery and settlement of high-quality coastal areas. However, new geopolitical, logistical and infrastructure-related parameters – above and beyond the economic efficiency of the tourism sector – are now leading the development of the sector, our landscape and our most highly valued land: the coast.

Catalonia and Barcelona are major nodes in the current and future process of building the European Union's new urban conurbation: the Mediterranean coast. Populations no longer shift from the country to the city, but from inland regions to the coast. In Spain alone, the coastal population – currently 22 million people – is expected to triple in the next fifteen years.

The way forward?

How can we comprehensively rethink the coast to make it habitable? If tourism is the epitome of the contemporary urban scene, what essential issues should the disciplines responsible for its development dealing with in order to transform this market phenomenon into an exceptional field of research with great potential? How can we turn the process of coastal migration into an opportunity for local development?


Intelligent Coast: an example

Intelligent Coast one-year master's programme offered by the Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya (UPC) since 2006, constitutes an example of developing existing formal capacity building in the frame of ICZM.

The aim of this one-year master's programme is to provide a framework for theoretical and practical exchange aimed at articulating a transverse view of the phenomenon of tourism and its impact on the landscape through research on new models of intervention and guidance and the participation of the various disciplines and stakeholders involved. To consolidate a national and international research network focused on the analysis and redefinition of certain paradigmatic tourism scenarios, such as specific case studies.

This one-year master's programme is divided into three quarters. In the first quarter, students learn about and analyse the coast and the phenomenon of tourism using advanced digital techniques: geographic information systems (GIS). The second quarter is an interdisciplinary exploration of various models of tourism, from their political and economic development to their city-planning and architectural characteristics. Students analyse not only Mediterranean models but also those of natural competitors in the Caribbean and the Asian Pacific. In the third quarter, students apply the knowledge they have acquired during the programme to a comprehensive project involving a real case study. Each quarter is divided into a theoretical/active segment and proactive practice segment. Class time is complemented by workshops, seminars, field trips and lectures open to the general public.


Further educational programmes and training opportunities networks need to be developed and divulged in order to contribute effectively to future requirements and demands of ICZM education and training in Europe. The present contribution aims to help to achieve this objective. The present contribution aims to help to achieve this objective.

Further reading


The main author of this article is Boyra Amposta, Josep
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.


Roadmap for Capacity Building for ICZM

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