Compte-rendu du webinaire « Eco-tourism: a possible pathway towards sustainable economic development »
The CEDEJ Environment and Social Policies Seminar Series: Eco-tourism
“We’re in a situation where, if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change, eco-tourism is probably the only strategy for the future of tourism. It may be not a simple prospect, but it sure is a necessary one.”
On the 17th of February, another event of the CEDEJ Environment and Social Policies Seminar Series took place and was moderated by FES program manager Waleed Mansour and CEDEJ representative Agnès Deboulet. The online seminar thematized the necessity and possible implementations of eco-tourism as the future of touristic travelling.
After a bilingual introduction to the topic, Simone Abram gave the audience an insightful overview on the negative effects of traditional tourism and the challenges of promoting eco-tourism. Abram is a Professor of Anthropology at Durham University and author of the books “Tourists and Tourism” and “Green Ice: Tourism ecologies in the European High North”. She stressed the fact, that eco-tourism is based on principles of environmental, economic and social sustainability, although the preservation of the nature is in the focus of this concept. She further highlighted the need for educating tourists about this better form of experiencing a new culture. Abram also stated a few dilemmas that eco-tourism is object to, such as the conflict between local and global sustainability, the danger of eco-washing the term, the fact that tourism remains an economic necessity for the locals and the conflict between nature conservation and social benefits. By listing different questions related to conceptualizing eco-tourism, Abram concluded her short speech by mentioning the main challenges of successfully promoting this concept.
The second speaker of the event was Barcelona-based staff member of the Secretariat of the Union for the Mediterranean, Mohammed Elrazzaz. He started by elucidating the concepts of Blue Economy and Blue Tourism. The latter is a project that aims to identify the practices for managing negative externalities and foster sustainable development. Elrazzaz further stressed that the Mediterranean, the region that accounts for 20% of the gross marine products worldwide, is especially affected by the destructive nature of traditional tourism. The fact that tourists use 3-4 times as much water as locals and that over 50% of the plastic litter in the ocean comes from the former, demonstrates just how bad this luxury is for our environment. The Professor of Mediterranean Heritage highlights that some locals are severely bothered by commercial travelers, which, as he states, is expressed by posters in Barcelona’s streets saying “Tourism = Cancer”.
Hence, the local’s consciousness of the serious damages that tourism can cause to the cities’ cultural heritage, is increasing. Finally, Elrazzaz tackled the issue of the freedom to operate in Egypt. As the concept of eco-tourism is still not established enough, alternative travelers might still face problems with Egyptian authorities when travelling on their own.Following this presentation, tourism consultant Sandrine Gamblin and eco activist Hashim Morsy, showcased possible implementations of eco-tourism.
Gamblin gave a presentation on how the EU-funded project “Visit Badrashin” aims to redefine tourism in Egypt. The project’s objective is to support rural development by combining responsible tourism, economic growth, market access and competitiveness in the area of Badrashin. It gives people the chance to stay on a farm with locals and thus to support transforming local rural assets into resilient, tourism-based products and services.
Morsy, the founder of the Heissa Camp Ecolodge and Azaaola, talked about how he established the two camps in a way that they are a 100% ecofriendly, without changing the ecological character of the locations. The Heissa Camp gives travelers the chance to watch birds, while it protects their habitat. Morsy emphasized that the clientele of his lodges mainly consists of visitors who want to have the authentic nature and culture experience in Egypt – unlike the stereotypical tourist.
Finally, Soha Bahgat, Assistant Professor in Tourism Studies and spoke person to the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities elucidated Egypt’s two strategies for tourism. According to Bahgat, the government will set a stronger focus on sustainable as well as ecological tourism, to preserve the country’s nature and archeological sites. She further stated that the government is setting certain standards for ecolodges to set a regulatory framework for eco-tourism.
After Bahgat has finished, questions like whether and how Egyptian authorities will respect the environment by not setting up projects in the midst of fields or cultural sites, opened the stage for an urgent discussion about continuing drawbacks in the environmental and cultural consciousness within the Egyptian society.
The event ended after all of the speakers were given the chance for some final words about the future of eco-tourism in Egypt.