Can we have mass-tourism without degrading the environment?

Can we have mass-tourism without degrading the environment?

According to UNESCO, 30% of the world’s tourism is located in the Middle East and in 2030, this region is expected to welcome over 500 million tourists. Against this background, is it possible to have this expected mass-tourism without degrading the environment?

This question was debated at the 6th Mediterranean Forest Week in Lebanon.

We all know that random and unorganized tourism has dangerous impacts on biodiversity and fragile natural areas. This type of negative tourism also degrades natural resources, pollutes sites and has physical influences such as deforestation.

During the side-session on the preservation and valorization of Mediterranean forests from mass tourism impact, Jad Abou Arrage gave a detailed report on the impacts of tourism on a Lebanese mountain trail. He noted that hikers play the role of guardians, since they’re the first ones to report pest outbreaks, forest fires, land deterioration and natural disasters.

Now, more than ever before, we need to make a shift in the tourism industry, especially since mountains are trendy, popular and attract tourists.

The advantages of tourism in terms of income, promotion, and preservation should be noted and highlighted. But rules and regulations need to be set in order to minimize the harmful impacts. The Mediterranean Experience of EcoTourism – or MEET Network – is currently structuring the tourism flow and creating high quality eco-tourism packages in the region, as well as providing funding for sustainable projects.

The sooner that stakeholders are involved in the process of development, the more efficient and easier it will be for recovery and prevention. We, as a community, need to adopt responsible and eco-friendly behavior to ensure that our natural heritage lasts – for all generations – to come.

Blogpost by Leila Rossa Mouawad