MENA countries add revolutionary credentials to eco-tourism

Souvenirs of the recent revolution are already on sale in Tahrir Square

In recent weeks, Green Prophet has reported on concerns for MENA regional eco-tourism after visitor numbers slumped over concerns about safety, and on worries that the conflict in Libya could damage the country’s stunning historical remains.

But plans to promote Middle East and North African countries as eco-tourism destinations seem to be getting back on track – and with a revolutionary twist.

According to reports from this year’s ITB Berlin feature a series of new slogans for Egyptian tourism, including ‘welcome to the country of peaceful revolution’, ‘7,000 years of history and a new era’, ‘Online revolution – made in Egypt’ and ‘Tahrir – a square rocks the world’. The country’s tourism ministry tripled its presence at the Berlin tourism fair, with senior ministerial advisor Hisham Zaazou apparently surviving the fall of Hosni Mubarak to continue driving forward Egypt’s green tourism initiatives.

Zaazou was quoted in Middle East Online as saying that “Egypt is already a must-see destination for its history and its natural beauty but now there is a new element. We invite tourists to share the experience of a democratic revolution.” Tour operators predicted that as well as visiting museums and historical sights, guides would now be showing tourists key scenes from the revolutionary uprisings.

Hisham Zaazou is often credited with being the driving force behind the ‘Green Sharm Initiative’ to introduce environmental values into mainstream Egyptian tourism. And despite the recent turmoil, Zaazou insisted to Arabian Business’ Monika Grzesik that common measures such as mass switch-overs of thousands of hotel rooms to low-energy light bulbs could be accompanied by more unusual moves, such as excluding all but electric cars from the centre of Sharm al-Sheikh. And, Zaazou says, Sharm is just the beginning, with environmental improvements slated for other tourism hotspots such as Luxor, Hurghada and Alexandria.

Middle East Online’s Aurelia End also reported that Tunisia was promoting its revolutionary credentials in Berlin, trying to move on from its reputation as a sun-sea-and-sand destination competing with Spanish beaches to a country with appeal for ‘cultured citizen’ travellers. Tunisian Tourism Minister Mehdi Houas told journalists that European tourists should hurry to visit Tunisia to ‘experience the emotion in Tunisia” before it becomes “a classical democracy”’. New tourist developments would, Houas stated, bring a travellers closer to Tunisian people, rather than isolating them in beach resorts ‘far away from reality’.

(Photo courtesy of Gr33ndata)

Read more about eco-tourism in the Middle East and North Africa:
Tunisian Eco-Retreat Offers Warm Ecological Hospitality
Jordan Hopes For The Gulf And Levant’s First “Mixed” UNESCO Heritage Site
There’s More To Lebanese Tourism Than Bars And Beaches

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