International Symposium on
Drylands Ecology and Human Security

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Direct and Indirect Impact of Tourism Industry on Drylands:
the Example of Southern Tunisia

Anna Dluzewska

Dean on Tourism Department SWPR, Warsaw, Poland


The intense development of tourism and the related dysfunctions, mainly of ecological character, become an incentive to discuss the issue of the capacity and absorptiveness of tourism in different areas. This problem becomes particularly urgent on small islands and in dry areas, where the capacity of tourism, especially in relation to the limited resources of water, is particularly sharp. The intensified usage of water for tourism purposes itself is not the major danger - much more serious are consequences on the attitude of locals. Tourism leads to a drastic and mostly irreversible change of the behavior of autochthonic population of the dry areas concerning water usage. Southern Tunisia is an area where such process takes place.

In Tunisia mass scale tourism has been developing since the 80s. It is predominantly holiday tourism, beach tourism, with its low prices, which is indirectly connected with the “character of tourists” who visit this place and the dysfunctions of tourism they cause. Apart from holidays on the seaside Tunisia’s tourist offer includes deserts (Douz), El Jerid chott, Saharan oases Tozeur and Nefta, as well as Barbary villages (Matmata, Chenini Tataouine) and numerous ksours. Due to the rising tourists’ interest in the southern part of Tunisia tourism reaches new areas every now and again. Within the last 20 years dozens of hotels with full recreational base have been built in Tunisia. Governmental investment in a network of asphalt roads and highways create favorable conditions for the expansion of tourism

The tourist who reaches the southern part of Tunisia is often the "beach” tourist who took an optional trip. This tourist is not particularly sensitive as far as cultural diversity and ecological problems are concerned. His behavior causes numerous cultural, social and ecologic dysfunctions. In this case it is hard to speak of any kind of water economy. Nevertheless it is important to notice, that there is no information in the hotels about the limited amount of water available in the respective areas. What’s more, water resources are even more drastically wasted by the hotel service: it is common that water in swimming pools is refilled every day and the lawn is watered too frequently and too generously.
For local population which is used to economical water usage (in the past average water usage per citizen amounted to around 2 liters per 24 hours) watching such behavior is both a “cultural shock” and a sort of “discovery”. They learn to know that water is not a “limited” resource hence it can be used for other purposes – such as for unlimited irrigation of crops - as well. As a result the highest water usage (often water waste) is observed in the agricultural sector, not in the tourism sector. Yet it is hard to refute that this kind of imprudent behavior is an indirect effect of the development of tourism.


The indirect and direct observation which was being verified in the time period between 1983 and 2006, questionnaire interviews with natives, partially categorized.