Red Sea: From Mass-Tourism to Ecotourism | Egypt


The Red Sea is a very unique resource that is not yet being utilized to its full potential. Since 1980s till today the mass tourism has destroyed large areas of coastal stretches of the northern Red Sea region and the city of Hurghada is an example for such environmental deterioration.

Innovative initiatives have taken place in order to protect the remaining parts of the red sea (From Marsa Alam city to South) including several guidelines by the Red Sea Sustainable Tourism Initiative (RSSTI) in 2000-2004 that focused on developing ecotourism and coastal planning for the region, followed by another pilot programme named Livelihood and Income From Environment (LIFE) in 2005-2008 which supported implementing pilot projects in national parks to demonstrate examples of the appropriate process. Since 2008 to date there has been several initiatives to introduce sustainable practices (i.e. Solid Waste Management, Mooring Buoys,..and other practices) lead by local NGOs such as HEPCA.

Despite all these attempts, the development pattern did not change much and the knowledge gained remains within a limited number of people, the main obstacles are: (i) An intuitional problem where the responsible authorities (both tourism and environment ministries) do not coordinate especially with such complexity of stakeholders, (ii) Practitioners are more inclined to utilize the Nile Valley architecture as the local and appropriate one for the Red Sea, and (iii) The lack of the understanding of the Red Sea system (i.e. drainage, soil, marine life,…and habitat) resulted to several inappropriate land subdivisions and allocating development in vulnerable areas

The solutions for such complex problems can be summarized as follow:

(i) Elevate the planning exercise above the ministry level, where planning is not limited to one ministry (housing, tourism, … and environment) that has a very specific mandate and will encourage mono-type of development, but rather an over arching exercise that is a product of a higher level proposed committee on the prime-minster level.

(ii) Improving the education (mainly architecture and planning) to incorporate appropriate planning tools and building technologies and not limit this arena to the Nile Valley architecture. Learning from the local tribes knowledge about best site selections criteria and building styles. Seeking guidance from relevant experiences in the region rather than copying western countries

(iii) Need for suitability land use maps that can guide development in the region without harmful intervention to the environment and being locally implementable within the local market dynamics

Also posted on the Berkeley Tourism Studies Working Group, (part of TSWG colloquium):