Tunisia is well known as a resort holiday destination, offering blue skies, warm sunshine and everything needed for a beach holiday. However, the proximity of the vast Sahara desert means that many visitors express an interest in exploring the sand and learning more about it. To this end the authorities in Tunisia have started encouraging the growth of ecotourism, tourism that brings a vital source of income to the country, while not interfering with, or harming, the local environment, established traditions and people or the wildlife; in short a non-intrusive income stream.
Tunisia is now actively encouraging visitors to explore the hinterland, moving away from the beach holiday image and focusing more on exposing the fabulous history and natural environment of the country. Some of the eco-friendly resorts currently under development are the Green Hill Resort and Kerkennah. Their focus is to encourage sustainable forms of tourism, that which bring benefit directly to the local people, without imposing on their lives.
The country’s history goes back all the way to the mysterious Phoenicians, who founded Carthage. Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Turks and the Spanish and French all invaded the country at one stage or another, and all of these civilisations have left their influence on the country.
Tunisia does not simply run from beach sand straight into desert sand; there are areas of hardy scrub and brush where a delicately balanced ecosystem supports a surprising array of wildlife ranging from the dainty large-eared fennec foxes to full prides of lions. A good selection of antelope feed the lions, while the attractive small foxes have a wide variety of rabbits, hares and rodents to hunt.
Learning about the animals and plants that rely on these ecosystems can help visitors understand and appreciate the country they are visiting, and it also helps those in authority to make the right decisions when it comes to development. New tourist projects are being designed, taking into account all the factors that will help to make the enterprise a successful one, not only in terms of earning power, but also as a long-term sustainable asset.
The perfect ecotourist is one who visits a country and, to paraphrase slightly, ‘takes nothing but photographs and leaves nothing but footprints’, enjoying and fully experiencing the country while bringing in vital funds, but not harming it in any way.