|About the Author: |
Ahmed Zedan has been effective at coordinating, developing, and facilitating the implementation of environmental projects and programs. Ahmed has studied and lived in Canada, Spain and Egypt and is currently completing his PhD in biodiversity management from the International University of Andalusia, Spain where he is exploring the use of sustainable tourism as a tool to conserve biodiversity.
Aggressive advertizing campaigns and renewed interest in cultural tourism raised a tourism boom in Egypt at the turn of the new millennium, with the upward trend in tourism stabilizing an otherwise unstable economy (Zaracostas, 2004). The September 11th terrorist attacks significantly reduced tourism in the region, but only briefly so, and the Egyptian government took steps to repair a reputation wounded by the terrorist threat. Traditional tourism in Egypt continues to far outweigh sustainable tourism in terms of profits, with the infrastructural demands of traditional tourism boosting the economy overall due to road construction, telecommunications networks, and hospitality organisations (Zaracostas, 2004). Particularly following the recent civil unrest in the region, however, Egypt remains a nation reliant on tourism for its economic survival. Tourism in Egypt is estimated to account for 11% of the GDP. Aligned closely with other African nations, Egypt’s status as a developing nation has allowed it far greater leeway in terms of environmental offenses than developed countries of the West, and the sustainability of the nation’s deserts could be both aided and hindered by tourism.
According to Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), in 2010 the total number of tourist arrivals in Egypt was approximately 12.5 million (CAPMAS Annual Bulletin for Tourism Statistics in 2010). The year 2011 saw a significant drop in the number of tourist arrivals due to the Egyptian revolution, as well as the unrest caused in the region during the Arab Spring. In 2011, the total number of tourist arrivals was approximately 9.8 million – 21% less tourists than the year before. However, on September 1st, 2012 during a workshop in Hurghada, Red Sea, Egypt, Tourism Minister Hisham Zazou stated that tourism in Egypt has begun recovering and is on its way to returning to its normal level (Egypt State Information Service, 2012).
This research will focus on the Siwa Oasis, in Egypt’s Western Desert, a frontier region of Egypt which extends across the border into Libya and south to the Sudanese border (U.S. Library of Congress). This desert region, which covers 7,000 square kilometers, is approximately two thirds of Egypt’s land area (U.S. Library of Congress). The primary governorates that are contained within the Western Desert include Marsa Matrouh (in the northern half of the desert) and Al Wadi al Jadid (the New Valley) to the South. Major geographical features include the Jilf al Kabir Plateau, the Great Sand Sea, and seven large depressions; of these, six are oases and the Qattara Depression, the largest, is a salty depression, covered in salt marshes and salt latkes (U.S. Library of Congress). There are permanent settlements in the oases, which sustain a limited amount of agricultural production. The Siwa Oasis is located in the northern half of the desert, closer to the Libyan border (Burmil 2003). The Siwa Oasis is well known for the number and quality of its springs, and as such has been a destination for visitors from ancient times (Burmil, 2003). The oasis holds a settled population of approximately 21,482 in 2006 (Abo-Ragab, 2008), and has about 540 hectares of cultivated land, with main agricultural crops being olives and palm (Burmil, 2003).
The general objective of this dissertation is to explore the impact of what are said to be sustainable tourism practices in Egypt’s Western Desert, with a focus on the Siwa Oasis located in Egypt’s Marsa Matrouh Governorate, on biodiversity, compare the impact of sustainable tourism with that of traditional tourism, and analyze the impact of this style of tourism in the long term, in order to provide recommendations (in the form of a strategy and action plan) for decreasing the impact of sustainable tourism on desert biodiversity.
2. Research Methods
2.1 Site Selection and Justification
2.1.1 Site Selection
The Siwa Oasis, located in the Western Desert of Egypt has been chosen as the case study for this research. There are a number of oases within the Western Desert that could have been chosen for the study. These oases are Al Fayum, Bahariyah, Farafrah, Dakhla and Kharga. The Siwa Oasis is not the most popular of these oases due to its isolation and distance from major cities in Egypt such as Cairo (approx. 741 km) and Alexandria (approx. 602 km). Only lately has Siwa been garner attention amongst Egyptians, many making mention of its serenity and natural beauty. Based on informal discussions with major tourism operators in Egypt, EEAA employees and academic researchers, there is an interest to develop Siwa as a sustainable tourism destination amidst concerns regarding the degradation of its integrity.
2.1.2 Site Justification
Egypt lies at the northeast corner of Africa at the junction of four biogeographical regions, Irano-Turanian, Mediterranean, Saharo-Sindian and Afrotropical. At the same time it is at the center of the great Saharo-Sindian desert belt that runs from Morocco on the northwest corner of Africa to the high, cold deserts of central Asia. Egypt is bounded on the north and east by two largely enclosed seas, the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. This unique position is enhanced by the circumstance that it is divided by the Nile, the longest river in the world. Most of Egypt is either arid or hyper arid, however, due to its very varied eco-zones the country is home to a wide diversity of terrestrial habitats and fauna and flora, which although relatively low in species numbers and with few endemics, is extremely varied in composition.
The tourism sector is Egypt’s largest contributor of foreign income, representing approximately 11% of the country’s GDP. In 2010, 15.7 million tourists visiting Egypt added $12.5bn to the economy (AMEinfo, 2012).
22.214.171.124 Western Desert of Egypt
Egypt’s Western Desert (Figure 3‑1) covers 700,000 square kilometers and accounts for approximately two-thirds of Egypt’s land surface area (US Library of Congress). The Western Desert spans Egypt westward from the Nile Delta and Red Sea until the border with Libya, and southward from the Mediterranean Sea down to the borders of Sudan. In the Western Desert lies the Great Sand Sea (Figure 3‑2) which runs from Siwa Oasis to Gilf El-Kebir. There are no rivers or streams that drain into or out of the Western Desert. There are two governorates in the Western Desert, Marsa Matrouh and Al Wadi al Jadid. The desert is home to seven depressions, all of which are considered oases except for the Qattara Depression, which covers 15,000 square kilometers, which is below sea level and is characterised by salt marshes, salt lakes and badlands (US Library of Congress). The remaining six depressions have limited agricultural production, natural resources and settlements. They are also known for their freshwater sources. The oases in the Western Desert are Siwa, Al Fayum, Bahariyah, Farafrah, Dakhla and Kharga (Figure 3‑3). The Western Desert boasts impeccable scenery of sand dunes, oases, mountainous plateaus, canyons and valleys.
Figure 3‑1: Egypt’s Western Desert
Figure 3‑2: Great Sand Sea
Figure 3‑3: Oases of Western Desert
126.96.36.199 Siwa Oasis
Located in the Matrouh governorate, approximately 300 km from the coastal city of Matrouh (Figure 3‑4), and approximately 750 km from the capital, Cairo, the 1,125 km2 Siwa Oasis is well known for its lush palm and olive trees and natural springs. It is said to host 300,000 date trees, 70,000 olive trees and 1,000 natural springs. However, it is considered fairly new to most people, as its indigenous people had been isolated from the world until the Egyptian government built a paved road in the early 80s connecting the remote oasis to civilization (Figure 3‑5). There are now paved roads in Siwa allowing better accessibility to various tourist attractions (Figure 3‑6).
Figure 3‑4: Location of Siwa Oasis in Matrouh Governorate
Source: Case studies in Egypt: Marsa Matrouh, Al Alamein, Siwa Oasis (Matrouh Governorate). Rady, 2011.
Figure 3‑5: Illustration of Accessibility to Siwa Oasis
Source: Ghazal Safari website (www.ghazalsafari.com)
Figure 3‑6: Map of Siwa Oasis
Source: Case studies in Egypt: Marsa Matrouh, Al Alamein, Siwa Oasis (Matrouh Governorate). Rady, 2011.
The Siwa Oasis is home to a relatively small population of approximately 21,693 (CAPMAS) with a Berber community majority whom still hold on to their culture, traditions and language (Siwi). Major economic activities in the Siwa Oasis include agricultural products (especially dates and olives), mineral water production and tourism. In 2002, the Egyptian government confirmed the biological and cultural value of the Siwa Oasis by designating 7,800 km2 in and around the oasis a protected area. Such a designation fends the oasis from activities that may damage its overall natural integrity and has also promoted the conservation of the oasis’s resources. The best time to travel to the oasis is between the months of October and February where temperatures are tolerable (Figure 3‑7).
Figure 3‑7: Siwa Oasis Climate
The oasis’s popularity also stems from its salt lakes, the expanse of sand dunes, traditional mud-brick buildings (a.k.a kersheef) and most importantly the presence of ancient historical sites, including the Oracle of Amun temple, where Alexander the Great was declared a god and son of Zeus in 331 BC.
Based on a visit to Siwa, there are approximately 21 hotels, including five (as labeled by their respective owners). Obtaining the exact number of hotels is difficult to arrive at due to closures and new developments occurring throughout 2011/2012. According to a study carried out by Grassi (2006) for the EEAA, there are a total of 23 hotels in Siwa, offering 571 rooms. Based on Rady’s (2011) findings, there were 550 hotel employees in Siwa in 2009. The total number of tourists visiting Siwa annually has proven to be a difficult number to obtain, as attested by the EEAA in their sustainable tourism strategy for Siwa’s protected area (2007) and Petruccioli and Montalbano’s (2011) book titled ‘Siwa Oasis: Actions for a Sustainable Development’. However, based on information collected by Petruccioli and Montalbano (2011) from a privileged witness, there is an annual tourism flow of approximately 20,000 visitors, of which 8,000 are foreigners.
Given the recent developments in Siwa, including better accessibility and a rising number of tourists visiting the oasis, there seems to be an increasing interest in Siwa as a tourism destination in Egypt. Despite the positive contribution that such progress may bring to Siwa, it is also important to note that there may be negative impacts on Siwa, should tourism practices follow suit those of other tourism destinations in Egypt. For example, this may lead to the gradual replacement of old-fashioned ways of life to modern lifestyles that would eventually wear down Siwa’s natural and cultural assets. Therefore, it is in the interest of all stakeholders to maintain Siwa’s unique character.
2.2 Data Collection and Analysis
Data collected for the purpose of this dissertation was largely based on secondary data. However, primary data was also collected with regards to the natural environment in Siwa and through interviews with government officials, tourists, hotel and ecolodge staff, as well as local residents of Siwa. Both primary and secondary data were gathered and used as indicators to assess the level at which tourism in Siwa is considered sustainable, and contributes to biodiversity conservation.
2.2.1 Interviews and Survey
A total of 20 interviews were conducted, comprising of business owners in Siwa, a tribal chief, staff from the local Siwa council, the former director of the EEAA’s Nature Conservation Sector, EEAA staff, ministry of tourism staff, researchers, tourists and NGO staff. The researcher was advised by tribal chiefs in Siwa not to conduct interviews with local residents due to their lack of knowledge and understanding of the objectives of the study, as well as their lack of knowledge on sustainable tourism. Interview questions were designed to gauge the perception of interviewees on the concept of sustainable tourism, as well as sustainable tourism practices taking place in Siwa. In addition, interviewees were asked about laws, policies and regulations governing sustainable tourism, sustainable tourism initiatives, challenges and impacts of tourism in Siwa. Finally, they were asked about the kind of sustainable tourism practices they would like to see come into effect in Siwa.
A survey was conducted to determine whether or not ecolodges and hotels in the Siwa Oasis have adopted sustainable tourism practices in their operations. The survey was based on the self-assessment tool developed by the ‘Fostering Innovation in Sustainable Tourism’ initiative led by Vancouver Island University, University of Northern British Columbia, Thompson Rivers University and the College of the Rockies. The goal of the initiative is to build capacity and disseminate sustainable tourism innovations, as well as offer tools to assist tourism operators in making their business more sustainable. The self-assessment tool was prepared to aid operators in determining whether or not their current practices are sustainable, and to assist them in finding ways to become more sustainable.
The self-assessment tool is divided into three sections; environmental, social and economical sustainability. In addition the assessment has sections addressing motivations to adopt sustainable tourism practices; knowledge of sustainability; and extent of sustainability practices currently used. Each question in the self-assessment tool provides a corresponding value for the possible responses. The total of the self assessment score is divided into ranges which determine the operators’ level of sustainability.
There are a total of 22 hotels/ecolodges in Siwa. Of these, 5 ecolodges (categorized as such by their respective owners) and 17 hotels participated in the survey.
3.1 Interviews and Survey
All of the 20 participants interviewed were aware of the concept of sustainable tourism, and 16 of them considered Siwa a sustainable tourism destination, two considered it somewhat sustainable and the remaining two saw Siwa as a non-sustainable destination. However, based on interviews with staff from the EEAA and the former director of the Nature Conservation Sector, whom considered Siwa a sustainable tourism destination, tourism practices in Siwa are sustainable as a result of its remoteness and the low number of tourists visiting, as opposed to a commitment to achieving sustainability. When asked whether or not initiatives and efforts by the government, NGOs, private businesses and other agencies aided in developing Siwa as a sustainable tourism destination 11 of the interviewees said yes, whereas the remaining nine respondents disagreed. The majority of interviewees (15) agreed that laws and regulations in Egypt were insufficient to achieving sustainability in Siwa, while three of the participants thought laws and regulations were sufficient and two others were unsure. Twelve of the interviewees believed there were no laws and regulations in place to govern sustainable tourism developments in Siwa. The five interviewees who mentioned the existence of laws and regulations for sustainable tourism developments made reference to regulations requiring buildings not to exceed a set number of floors (though the exact number of floors was not known), and that the more modern buildings be dyed with a mud-like material resembling the appearance of kersheef, the local building material in Siwa. With regards to laws and regulations governing desert activities, eight of the participants mentioned the lack of any, while eight others mentioned laws and regulations for desert activities – referring to the law for Siwa’s protected area. Four of the participants said they did not know whether laws and regulations existed for desert activities. When asked whether or not tourism has had a positive, negative or both positive and negative impacts on Siwa, eleven of the respondents said impacts were positive while the remaining nine said impacts had been both positive and negative. All of the respondents who were of the opinion that tourism had a positive and negative impacts on Siwa mentioned the loss and detachment of their customs and traditions. Other negative impacts were an increase in the price of commodities, a decreasing focus on agricultural activities and damage to natural assets and the environment. Positive impacts included:
· Creation of employment opportunities;
· Exposure to the outside world;
· Acceptance of tourism as a potential source of income;
· Developing new language skills (especially English);
· Promoting, marketing and creating an appeal for Siwa;
· Improving tourism activities;
· Improving the management of Siwa’s natural assets;
· Learning about the environment; and
· Reviving Siwan art.
Participants are eager to further develop Siwa into a sustainable tourism destination by introducing the following:
· To deal with Siwa as though it was a protected area in its entirety
· Further developing heritage tourism
· Further developing therapeutic tourism
· Retrofitting all buildings to be built with kersheef, as were old Siwan buildings
· Properly manage waste and water
· Change all vehicles from petrol to gas
· Introduce laws and regulations specific to Siwa
· Regulate motorised traffic
· Disseminate information regarding sustainability
· Develop awareness programs for locals
· Create a body to monitor sustainable tourism developments/activities
· Establish a main museum displaying the oasis’s natural assets
In an interview with the former director of the Nature Conservation Sector, Egypt’s focal point to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), he mentioned that sustainability plans for various protected areas in Egypt were developed based on the CBD’s Guidelines on Biodiversity and Tourism Development, with reasonable success. The following responses (verbatim in bold text) were provided by the former director regarding the EEAA’s work on sustainable tourism in relation to the CBD’s Guidelines on Biodiversity and Tourism Development:
· Egypt has developed a National Sustainable Tourism Plan, what contribution has the EEAA made to the development of this plan?
EEAA has prepared the National Sustainable Tourism Plan in consultation with Tourism Sector.
· What are the major challenges facing Egypt today in terms of making it a more sustainable tourist destination?
Institutional reform, political instability, capacity building, application of sustainable tourism, principles and guidelines, benefit sharing of tourism.
· How committed is the EEAA in aligning its work on sustainable tourism with the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Guidelines on Biodiversity and Tourism Development? EEAA prepared the plan based on CBD’s Guidelines on Biodiversity and Tourism Development. Consequently, sustainable plans were prepared for selected protected areas with reasonable success.
· There’s been a lot of emphasis on making Sharm Sheikh a more sustainable destination, have there been any similar efforts in doing so for Siwa or any other desert destinations?
Not yet, as the Sharm El-Sheikh Green City initiative is in early stage of implementation.
· In your opinion, is Siwa considered a sustainable tourism destination? If yes, is it due to factors such as limited tourist numbers, a lack of infrastructure and reduced pressures or due to government efforts?
Yes. It is due to the limited tourist member and limited infrastructure, but not due to government efforts.
· What are some of the major challenges facing Siwa in becoming a sustainable tourism destination?
Institutional reform; political instability, security issues, intervention of military and police forces on movements of tourists in the deserts (smuggling of arms from Libya).
· Is there an overall vision for sustainable tourism development in Siwa?
Yes, prepared in 2007
· Is the vision you have for Siwa in harmony with the goals and objectives of the CBD?
· Is there baseline information available regarding the following:
- Economic, social and environmental conditions in Siwa? If yes, when was this information last updated?
Yes, a few years ago
- Current and planned tourism developments and activities and their impacts on the desert?
- Trends of tourism (i.e. tourist numbers) in Siwa based on market research?
- Environmental and biodiversity resources and processes?
- Benefits and costs to local Siwans?
- Culturally sensitive areas?
- Damage done to the desert ecosystem in Siwa as a result of tourism activities?
· Has the government set a carrying capacity for the number of visitors entering Siwa’s protected area?
· Have you made use of the CBD’s Clearing House Mechanism?
To some extent
· Have goals been set to cover:
- Maintenance and functioning of desert ecosystems?
National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan is being updated, based on CBD strategy (2011-2020). It is planned to define goals for specific ecosystems including deserts.
- Sustainable tourism compatible with biodiversity conservation?
- Sharing the benefits from tourism with local communities?
- Poverty reduction?
- Protection of indigenous livelihoods?
· Is there a current monitoring and control system for the management of tourism activities? If yes, what social, economical and environmental indicators have been used?
Yes, number of tourists they visit selected sites; tourist satisfaction; money spent; local guidelines.
The survey based on the self-assessment tool developed by the ‘Fostering Innovation in Sustainable Tourism’ initiative is divided into different sections, with each question in the survey having a corresponding value. The total of all questions is measured against the following score ranges (Sustainable Tourism – Self-Assessment Tool, Vancouver Island University website):
If you scored between 27 and 38:
Welcome to the beginning of your journey towards sustainability! Your score suggests that there are many sustainable practices that you can begin to implement into your business. The previous three sections can give you ideas of sustainable practices, many of which are easily implemented. Use the next section of this assessment tool to think about how you would like your business to operate sustainably in the future, and start moving towards that goal.
If you scored between 39 and 50:
You are on your way! Your score suggests that you have already begun to implement sustainable practices into your business. Sustainability is however, an ongoing process. While you should be proud of the initiatives your business has taken and promote them to your customers, there is more to be done. Use the next section of this assessment tool to determine more sustainable practices that you can incorporate into your business, and keep moving down the road to sustainability.
If you scored between 51 and 62+:
You have expressed strong commitment to sustainability! Your score suggests you have implemented various sustainability practices in your business. Your business may be a model for others in the industry looking for inspiration and knowledge about sustainability. You may also understand better than others that it is an ongoing process and that there is always more that can be done.
Of the 17 hotels and 5 ecolodges surveyed; 17 hotels scored within the 39-50 range, one ecolodge scored within the 51-62+ range and another ecolodge scored in the 27-38 range. With regards to their knowledge of environmental and social sustainability issues, four ecolodges and two hotels stated that they seek out information on environmental and social issues of concern; nine hotels stated that their knowledge came from news or read in mainstream media; six hotels and one ecolodge stated that they recognize various sustainability terms but do not have a full understanding of the issues.
The total number points for questions regarding environmental, social and economical sustainability was 16 points each. The average for each category was 12.22, 12.95 and 13.04. Figure 4‑2to Figure 4‑25show the results of the survey for each of the sustainability categories.
The survey revealed that motivations for adopting sustainable practices into their businesses varied, with the majority of them citing protecting resources and/or attracting environmentally conscious markets as reasons to adopting sustainability practices. Motivations amongst the participants were:
· 14 participants were motivated to attract environmentally conscious markets
· 14 participants were motivated to protect the resources they depend on
· 12 participants were motivated by their strong pro-sustainability values
· 8 participants were motivated to enhance their business’s reputation
· 8 participants were motivated to differentiate their business from competition
· 3 participants were motivated by the potential cost savings
· 1 participant said their motivation was to improve income
According to the survey eight of the hotels have piloted a few sustainable practices; four ecolodges and one hotel have committed to sustainable practices at many levels; five hotels have initiated some sustainable practices and are planning for more practices; and three hotels and one ecolodge have not incorporated sustainable tourism practices into their operations.
Environmental Sustainability Survey Results:
Figure 4‑2: Does your business have a recycling program to collect recyclables from both staff and customers?
Figure 4‑3: Does your business encourage water conservation by utilising low-flow or dual flush toilets, faucet aerators, low-flow showerheads, toilet dams, or any other water management systems?
Figure 4‑4: Does your business monitor energy and water consumption to determine effects of conservation plans?
Figure 4‑5: Does your business try to minimise environmental impacts from transportation by encouraging staff and customers to utilize active transportation, transit or car-pool options?
Figure 4‑6: Does your business collect and compost materials?
Figure 4‑7: Does your business use paperless marketing techniques to minimize paper waste?
Figure 4‑8: Does your business utilize low energy lighting in and around buildings?
Figure 4‑9: Do you encourage your staff and customers to turn off lights when they are not needed?
Social Sustainability Survey Results:
Figure 4‑10: Would you say your business has established a ‘green culture’? Are employees encouraged to be innovative and practice sustainability both at work and at home?
Figure 4‑11: Does your business have a purchasing policy that favours products that are fair-trade, locally sourced, free of child labour, do not exploit the environment and/or are organic?
Figure 4‑12: Does your business value quality of customer experience over quantity of customers?
Figure 4‑13: Does your business actively celebrate and promote local culture? For example, through protection of local historic sites, use of local art, or participation in cultural events.
Figure 4‑14: Does your business provide learning opportunities for locals? For example through mentoring or apprenticeships.
Figure 4‑15: Does your business educate customers of your region’s unique socio-cultural landscape?
Figure 4‑16: Does your business sponsor local events or fundraisers?
Figure 4‑17: Do you and/or someone in your business participate on community committees or councils?
Economic Sustainability Survey Results:
Figure 4‑18: Does your business source supplies locally to support your local community?
Figure 4‑19: Does your business have a long-term financial plan to ensure your own economic sustainability?
Figure 4‑20: Does your business participate in any partnerships with other local businesses to encourage the economic benefits of tourism spin-off to the entire local economy?
Figure 4‑21: Does your business reduce the usage of products and/or services to reduce costs? For example reducing energy usage, reducing paper usage etc.
Figure 4‑22: Does your business support charitable organizations through donations either financially or in-kind?
Figure 4‑23: Does your business encourage employee volunteerism through paid volunteer time or participation in fundraising activities such as walk-a-thons, bake sales or silent auctions?
Figure 4‑24: Does your business hire people from the local community?
Figure 4‑25: Does your business market and/or communicate your sustainable practices to the public?
The level of sustainability in Siwa seems to be a result of their isolation and way of life, rather than their willingness to adopt sustainable tourism practices. In the face of the efforts made by both the public, and to a larger extent, private sectors in Siwa, sustainable tourism is yet to take its place as a viable model for tourism. Findings of this research show that despite Egypt’s efforts to implement the CBD’s Guidelines on Biodiversity and Tourism Development, it is clear that its implementation of the CBD guidelines is unmethodical, loosely put to practice and lacks many of the elements included in the guidelines. It is possible that the reasoning behind this weakened implementation is due to the lack of financial and human recourses, other governmental priorities, the lack of technical expertise and many other factors. The only sustainable tourism strategy developed for Siwa largely focused on the management, promotion and conservation of Siwa’s protected area. Therefore, it can be argued that the CBD guidelines, when used, had been limited mostly to the Siwa protectorate rather than the town of Siwa as a whole.
In conclusion, and to answer the questions to which this research set out to answer, there are no concise figures showing the exact number of tourists visiting Siwa per year. Most information collected is with regards to tourists visiting Siwa’s protected area. Data available regarding the volume of tourists in Siwa is almost always approximate, such as that provided by Petruccioli and Montalbano (2011), where it is estimated that there are 20,000 visitors visiting Siwa per year. Earlier figures for the year 1999, estimated the number of visitors to be over 10,000 per year (Baha el Din, 2000).
This research shows that Siwa displays some forms of sustainable tourism, with economic sustainability practices performing better than both environmental and social sustainability practices. One can argue that this is in large part due to the town’s isolation and the necessity for it to sustain itself out of convenience, rather than out of reaching the goal of sustainable tourism, which is to foster a mutually beneficial relationship between the tourism industry and the local community.
However, it is safe to say that sustainability seems to be a growing trend in Siwa. This is due to some private businesses in town with sustainability on their agendas, interventions and projects launched by NGOs, as well as the perceptions of Siwa (sustainability, nature tourism, etc.) which visitors share with locals. Although locals are informed with the reputation that their town holds, an isolated oasis rich in culture and ideal for nature lovers, they lack the very basic understanding of the concept of sustainability.
There are no indications that the government is keen on taking concrete steps to ensure that Siwa does not follow suit other tourism destinations that are now considered damaged as a result of conventional tourism practices. This provides the private sector and the Siwan community a great opportunity to collaborate and develop Siwa into a sustainable tourism destination.
Ecological surveys in the area showed that tourism activities in and around the oasis have had minimal impact to the surrounding biodiversity. This should not be interpreted that current tourism practices can continue on this scale, because impacts can certainly be reduced, or even eliminated all together, once proper sustainable tourism practices have been adopted. Nonetheless, observations in this study show that impacts resulting from this scale of tourism, with its partial sustainable tourism practices, are far less than those observed in other areas experiencing high levels of tourism, such as the Red Sea resorts of Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada.
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