Tunisia Ecotourism: follow a sustainable circular economy tourism model that is a far cry from mass coastal tourism
At SwitchMed, we develop pilot demonstration projects on the circular economy, in accordance with national policies on sustainable production and consumption in the southern region of the Mediterranean perimeter. Follow the story of Aymen Louhichi, who is passionate about green tourism and a graduate in ecotourism, as he invites us to review an ecological and innovative approach to the Tunisian tourism market.
Sixty or so kilometres north-east of Tunis, on the northern shore of the canal of Bizerte leading to the Mediterranean Sea, we discover the city of Bizerte where Aymen and Ali open up the route towards alternative tourism. Founded in 2015, Tunisia Ecotourism helps diversify the Tunisian tourism offer according to a model that respects biodiversity and offers opportunities to local communities.
Tunisian tourism is largely dominated (95%) by mass coastal tourism which represents a major source of environmental pressure on the natural resources and coastal areas (water, waste pollution). Aymen and Ali tell us about their divergent, innovative approach: “We promote the region in which we live and to which we are proud to belong. As stakeholders involved in sustainability and respect for environmental regulations, we have chosen to apply for the Eco-Label, as a mark that distinguishes the highest-performing enterprises and, to this end, foster the positive development of the image of Tunisia as a ‘Nature Destination’. It is work on the social, economic and environmental criteria that impacts the business and increases our competitiveness in the market”. The business organises circuits that include the ecotourism sites: eco tours, birdwatching, walks, nature travel, alternative accommodation, camp-sites, survival camps, mixed culture-nature routes, etc.
Since 2017, the SwitchMed programme has been supporting the agency in strengthening its business model, improving their ecological-tourism services and partner networks, not to mention their environmental certification process. By summer 2017, we will be publishing a practical guide on how to obtain the ecotourism label intended for small and medium tourist establishments in the south Mediterranean, aiming to convey this sustainable progress throughout the Mediterranean basin.
The work of these ecotourism enthusiasts has a major potential impact on protection of the environment and respect for the local community. The project does not only affect the habits of consumption of tourist services by local and foreign visitors. It also stimulates the local economy, creating jobs and ensuring the continuation of traditional crafts for local men and women (local restaurateurs, farmers and artisans). The company transfers 5% of its profits to programmes dedicated to environmental protection and the development of accommodation structures by locals.In 2015, Tunisia Ecotourism was chosen from the most innovative pilot projects of the SwitchMed programme financed by the European Commission in agreement with the Tunisian Ministry for the Environment and the European Union delegation in Tunisia. It contributes towards the development of the sustainable consumption and production national action plan for Tunisia, structured around two priority sectors: food and tourism.
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