Alternative tourism in Tunisia must be encouraged because it will offer diversity for the tourism industry and create self-sustainable ecosystems, especially in the country’s interior and non-coastal regions.
Written by: Nada Chniter.
Manal Berrached is a first generation American with Tunisian roots who decided to move back to Tunisia to make a change. Born and raised in the suburbs of Washington D.C. and graduated in 2018 with a degree in Business Administration and Management she decided to pursue a career in international development.
From a young age Manal visited Tunisia every summer to visit her parents home country which is what strengthened her bond to Tunisia.
Having traveled to almost 47 countries, her love for tourism started from a young age after receiving a US State Department scholarship to study abroad at the age of 16. Her experiences are what ultimately led her to go down the path of alternative and sustainable tourism.
After graduating she moved to Tunisia and began working on the ACEA (collaborative action for Handicraft exports) project with Family Health International 360 funded by the Department of State for 5.6 million dollars. The ultimate goal of the ACEA project is to increase the exportation of Tunisian artisanal handicrafts, to incorporate the local artisans of underdeveloped regions into touristic circuits and to encourage economic and social development for local businesses.
Unlike Tunisian youth who leave their country, she chose to return and work on ensuring the success of Tunisia’s future in these underdeveloped regions. For the past year, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, she devoted herself to working on a tourism project mainly focused on artisans in underprivileged and rural areas. She has been conducting field visits to the northwest to discover what these regions have to offer that aren’t being publicized by the Tunisian Ministry of Tourism. This is her opportunity to share what she has discovered.
Opposite to what the government is promoting, the Northwest and South of Tunisia hold treasures that, if valued enough, can benefit both the country, the locals and the tourists. As a matter of fact, many guest houses operate without state approval due to the strong competition coming from the hotels on the coast and the Ministry of Tourism’s outdated tourism strategy of mass-tourism packages targeted to eastern Europeans.
During her field visits, Manal found it crucial that we incorporate alternative tourism in Tunisia in the strategy since the experiences, historical landmarks and natural attractions are being overlooked. Through further investigation, this has become a major issue since government officials make it difficult for small business owners to make a living through a labyrinth of bureaucratic steps to get state approval.
Alternative and sustainable tourism must be encouraged because it will offer diversity for the tourism industry and create self-sustainable ecosystems, especially in Tunisia’s interior and non-coastal regions
Manal and the ACEA project as a whole have made it her mission to empower rural women and integrate them into the economic system of the regions.
Women are becoming more aware of their potential as part of the economic growth of the region as several training programs and initiatives have been implemented by international non-profit organizations.
But how can this training be of use if not practiced in the real world?
That is why it is important to enhance the initiatives focused on alternative tourism in Tunisia because not only does it offer more options to tourists but also allows them to value women’s efforts by encouraging the local handicrafts and cuisine provided by the latter.
With this being said, this decision should be considered fully by all ecosystem actors. We are aiming to offer the tourists a new exciting experience while enhancing Tunisia’s economy through sustainability and preservation of our culture for generations to come.
On Thursday, June 24th 2021 the project Manal and her team worked on all year came to fruition with the help of Tunisian Campers, who played an important role in the organization and logistics of the pilot project. Due to the covid-19 restrictions the invitees were limited solely to representatives from local government, the US Embassy and media/journalists.
The pilot project was hosted in the governorate of Tabarka in the northwest of Tunisia and the program consisted of a botanical hike to see where the women collect their herbs, pilates, mountain biking, and a immersive tour of the cooperatives atelier.
The guests were also served a traditional lunch cooked by the artisans with local products and they attended a goat cheese workshop. Tunisian campers are the leaders of sustainable tourism and with their help this pilot was executed impeccably by fully incorporating the locals of the region which is what originally led the ACEA team to reach out to them for this pilot.
Manal and her team hope to continue working on other regions in Tunisia where they have artisanal projects in the works. Sustainable tourism is taking the world by storm and the locals of Tunisia are eager to be a part of this.
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