Is nature key to give new momentum to tourism in Tunisia?

Once one of the most attractive countries for holidaymakers in the Mediterranean area, Tunisia has been suffering a drop in tourist arrivals since the 2011 revolution. Tourism, the country’s most important industry, used to provide direct employment to hundreds of thousands of people.

With an offer that mostly focuses on "sun, sea and sand" packages, Tunisia is looking for ways to diversify the tourism sector. Thanks to stunning landscapes, rich vegetation and wildlife, and delicious food, Tunisia has everything it needs to become the new top destination on the global ecotourism map. In order to help Tunisia seize this potential, the MEET project (“Mediterranean Experience of Ecotourism”) has supported three protected areas in the design of new ecotourism products and the implementation of integrated strategies.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of migrating birds leave Europe and fly to the Ichkeul National Park where they nest for the winter period. With the presence of endangered flora and fauna, like the Persian cyclamen and the Mountain gazelle, and several hiking trails, the Bou Kornine National Park attracts many visitors from the close Tunisian capital. The Chikly Island, known to house an old Spanish fort, is found in a natural lagoon located between Tunis and the Mediterranean Sea. For any nature lover, these places are just like heaven.

In an effort to make these destinations more attractive, known and ready to welcome local and international visitors, the MEET project have implemented several pilot actions which will guarantee that tourism does not harm natural resources and benefits go to local communities.

Among others, the project allowed to better the facilities for tourists, including the improvement of the walking trails at Chikly Island, the revamp of the eco-museum in the Bou Kornine National Park, and the installation of benches at the Ichkeul National Park. With brand new information panels, tourists can get a full picture of the unique fauna, flora found in the concerned parks. In addition, two eco-tours crossing the three protected areas were designed and tested, and offer an exciting mix of experience from nature, culture, food to interactions with local people

Finally, in view of ensuring the long-term development of ecotourism, protected areas were provided with an integrated strategy, drafted in collaboration with local stakeholders so their ideas and expectations are reflected in future plans.

"Despite the difficult socio-political situation of the country, the results of the pilot actions carried out by the MEET project highlight the will of Tunisia to put nature and local communities at the center of sustainable tourism development," said Carla Danelutti, Ecosystem project manager and responsible of MEET initiative at the IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation, a partner of the project.

Pilot actions in Tunisia under the MEET project were implemented thanks to the partnership convention between the "General Direction of Forests" of Tunisia and the IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation.

Find out more information on the website of the MEET project and its dedicated ecotourism platform.

MEET at a glance

The MEET project supported 25 protected areas to improve their ecotourism offer and allowed to set up an ecotourism development model for the Mediterranean region. The project was led by Federparchi (Italy) and gathered 7 partners from France, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon and Spain.