Much of the tourism industry in Tunisia is still very much under development, particularly ecotourism and sustainable tourism. Plans and visions have been proposed, and while many are still in the development phase, few have been realised into existence due to delays in policy development, funding, and approvals. However, this isn't necessarily a negative sign, as the organisations responsible for developing ecotourism in Tunisia are dedicated to sustainable tourism development, and thus are taking the appropriate amount of time to ensure the ventures maintain integrity and are successful.
There has been focus in Tunisia on the sustainable development of tourism and ecotourism in two different areas: the Sahara Desert and the north coast islands. Coastal resorts have long been the face of Tunisia's tourism industry, but recently the shift has been towards visions of developing tourism opportunities in the Sahara, as well as developing ecotourism resorts on the coast.
These are wise and potentially lucrative ventures, considering tourism in the Sahara is known to be exceptionally appealing to Westerners, and the existing popularity of resorts can be capitalised upon to promote coastal ecoresorts. However, less has been done from an ecotourism standpoint to develop tourism in the Sahara, considering its fragility and the associate challenges of developing in the desert, thus more efforts have been focused on ecoresort development in coastal areas.
Dar Hi Hotel
One of the existing ecoresorts, located in the west of Tunisia, on a lake near the Algerian border, Dar HI Hotel is a boutique hotel with a distinctively French flair. Six years after its sister hotel, HI Hotel opened in Nice, France, the owners made the move into Tunisia, designing a property that is perfect for weekend breaks, luxury holidays, and ecotourism getaways.
Dar HI Hotel is in Nefta, a natural geological site, and operates on natural principals. Even its website proclaims that "HI Loves Ecology", noting that the hotel follows an ecological and environmental approach to operating. The hotel was built with heavy consideration for the environment, and utilised local craftsmen and local materials to complete the construction. "Dar HI was developed in harmony with local life and its natural environment. It will also contribute to the preservation of Nefta's oasis."
Considering that ecology and fair trade are the fundamental operating principles of the Dar HI hotel, visitors can be comfortable knowing that the immensely luxurious amenities offered at the hotel are well in line with ecotourism ideals. The rooms are designed in accordance to four different concepts, including an oasis and a city theme, and the hotel boasts a beautiful geothermal spa, an organic kitchen, and activities such as cooking lessons and a visit to the nearby date factories. At Dar HI Hotel, ecology is a beautiful thing.
Kerkennah is the first of two proposed developments in northern Tunisia. Kerkennah is an island off the northeast coast of Tunisia, and it is there that an ecotourism resort is to be developed in the near future. The resort will be developed in the area of Sidi Fankhel, and is intended to be a large complex with entertainment facilities, parks, and accommodation, covering approximately 90 hectares. Providing the development maintains an ecotourism focus and is conducted sustainably, this could be a very lucrative opportunity for ecotourism in Tunisia.
The second of the proposed developments, Bizerta, is a city on the very northern tip of Tunisia. The development in Bizerta is focused on preserving its rich history and heritage through the restoration and promotion of its monuments and archaeological sites, like ports, ramparts, forts, and mosques.
Green Hill Resort
Another promising ecotourism resort, Green Hill Resort, in Beni M'Tir village of northwestern Tunisia, is proposed to be an energy efficient hotel that produces the energy it needs to operate. Since Tunisia imports most of its energy, the development of a hotel that does not contribute to that demand is hugely progressive. The resort is based on three components: a bioclimatic architecture, geothermal elements, and solar energy, and the entire concept of the resort is aligned with MED-ENEC (energy efficiency in EU construction), the EU regional programme that supports the development of the Green Hill Resort. The project is still undergoing development, but will certainly set a precedent for sustainable tourism development in Tunisia.
Image Source: Bartek Kuzia