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Direct and indirect impact of the tourism industry on drylands: the example of Southern Tunisia

Anna Dłuzewska (Tourism Department, Warsaw Family Alliance Institute of Higher Education, SWPR University, Warsaw, Poland)

Management of Environmental Quality

ISSN: 1477-7835

Article publication date: 26 September 2008




The purpose of the paper is to attempt to answer the question of how tourism influences the behaviours connected with natural environment.


The research is based on the example of the attitude towards water usage among indigenous inhabitants of the Douz, Tozeur and Nefta oases in southern Tunisia. The research was conducted on the basis of the methodology of cultural anthropology, such as indirect and direct observation, verified in the time period between 1983 and 2006, partially categorized questionnaire interviews with natives of Douz, Tozeur and Nefta oases (43 people altogether). A supplement to the questionnaire interviews with natives was the research conducted in a group of hotel managers and tourists. As far as the information on water economy is concerned the author's work is grounded on research conducted simultaneously in the same area by another team as well as on a research conducted in similar environmental conditions.


The development of the tourism sector in the south of Tunisia started simultaneously with investments in artesian wells and pipelines transporting water to irrigate the oases. Therefore, it is difficult to estimate explicitly to what extent the behaviours concerning water economy were influenced by the investments and to what extent by tourism. Tourism has, however, undoubtedly the function of a “starting factor” which initiated a change in the traditional attitude towards water. As a result, the behaviours of indigenous inhabitants of the dry areas are subject to violent transformation – the highest water usage (often water waste) is observable in the agricultural sector, not in the tourism sector. It is worth emphasizing that the fatal consequences are often provoked not by the tourists' behaviours, but by the behaviour of the hotel staff – frequent filling of swimming pools, excessive watering of hotel gardens – which is being observed by indigenous inhabitants.

Practical implications

The lack restrictions concerning water consumption may undoubtedly lead to “self‐destruction of tourism”. Tunisian Government should definitely intervene in these matters (e.g. through the introduction of water usage restrictions for hoteliers).


Showing the interconnections between the development of the tourism sector specializing in mass tourism services and increased water consumption in the agricultural sector in dry areas.



Dłuzewska, A. (2008), "Direct and indirect impact of the tourism industry on drylands: the example of Southern Tunisia", Management of Environmental Quality, Vol. 19 No. 6, pp. 661-669.



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