Tag: social tourism

tourism for conservation

Can Tourism Support Conservation?

A question we always get in our line of work is can tourism really support conservation efforts? Yes, conservation and tourism are interconnected in many ways! Tourism involves visiting places of interest, and conservation involves protecting places of interest. Tourists can combine the two by visiting and supporting areas that actively practice conservation. In some cases, a tourist can actually decide where they would like to visit based on conservation efforts in the area. The increasing popularity of visiting destinations with that in mind is seen with more people visiting national parks in the US or the Galapagos Islands.

Types of conservation to support through tourism

  1. Wildlife conservation

This most popular type of conservation is normally based around a specific animal or animals. Tourists chose destinations for wildlife conservation to see or interact with their favorite animals.

Destinations to best participation in wildlife conservation tourism include La Jolla, California to see the sea lions or whale watching in Hawaii. Participating in activities that involve learning about wildlife or seeing wildlife supports organizations working to help protect the wildlife. The more popular wildlife tourism is, the more support different organizations get from the public, and in turn, they are better able to protect wildlife.

Sea lions on the beach at La Jolla Cove in Southern California, with sea lions playing in the surf. Tourism helps support the conservation of this colony of sea lions.
Sea Lions in La Jolla Cove, California

2. Cultural Conservation

Cultural conservation is crucial when working in destinations. It is important that tourism does not erode the traditions and customs of a place. Cultural conservation can include shopping at local markets to support communities. UNESCO’s heritage sites are locations that hold cultural and historical significance to a region or area. These locations are great examples of where tourism and cultural conservation come together. 

3. Environmental Conservation

The third type of conservation is environmental conservation, where the efforts go beyond a single animal and focus on an environment. The national parks are a great example of how tourists can visit an area that specifically uses their profits to protect and conserve the land and create a unique opportunity where tourists can experience the environment first hand in different ways, such as camping.

How does tourism support conservation?

Tourism is important for conservation for multiple reasons. One reason is because it can financially support conservation efforts. Tourists can eat locally to support a community, or they can choose to participate in a tour where a portion of the cost goes directly to conservation efforts. Most conservation efforts actively teach people the importance of protecting different environments and inspire them to care about the new places they have seen. You’re more likely to want to save the turtles if you’ve actually seen them! 

Financial support is very important when considering conservation efforts, but knowledge and the spread of knowledge is just as important. Tourism provides the opportunity for travelers to learn more about both wildlife and the environment they are visiting, but it also gives them the opportunity to relay what they learned to friends, family, blogs or other social media. 

What is a real life example of tourists supporting wildlife conservation?

One great example of tourism supporting wildlife conservation is Camp Jabulani in South Africa. This is a luxury safari camp that provides a 5-star safari experience with game drives, spas, and hot air balloon rides, but they are also famous for their elephant preservation efforts. When tourists visit this camp, they are directly supporting the conservation of the elephants on the camp’s reserve and any future wildlife rehabilitation and habitat restoration efforts the camp carries out.

Camp Jabulani has rescued orphaned or displaced elephants and has introduced them into the herd that is living on the camp’s reserve. The camp cares for the elephants and has created a sanctuary where the elephants live freely with the help of the camp staff. Tourists are able to visit the camp and learn about the importance of elephants in an ecosystem, the efforts to create a wild experience for the elephants, and the rehabilitation care given to the rescued elephants. This is a great example of how tourism supports conservation, because without tourists, this camp would not be able to care for these elephants that don’t have a chance of survival in the wild. 

An elephant with its trunk in the air during the elephant experience at Camp Jabulani in South Africa. This experience contributes to the conservation of African wildlife.
An Elephant at Camp Jabulani

How can I, as a tourist, help support conservation?

There are many different ways a tourist can purposefully support conservation efforts during their trip. A great way is to do research before your trip to see if there are any related projects currently being managed by the hotel or location you are staying at. Some hotels offer tours that teach tourists about the surrounding environment, and in turn, profits from the tour go to conservation efforts.

Another easy way a tourist can support conservation is by respecting outdoor areas. This includes picking up trash after a beach trip, staying on a path during a forest walk, and not feeding or touching the nearby wildlife. These efforts help keep the environment healthy and prosperous.

It’s also important to research before you buy. Make sure the hotel, tour, or restaurant that claims to be conserving isn’t actually exploiting. Look for companies or organizations who focus on education and don’t allow the tourists to disrespect their surroundings. This means the organizations don’t disrupt the natural life cycle by feeding animals, waking up animals, picking flowers, and more. This is exploitation of the natural environment and can be very harmful. EcoClub has an extensive list that provides great examples of tours with a positive impact. 

An elephant at Camp Jabulani being led back to their sleeping area at sunset. There is a lake in front of the elephant with the elephant's reflection on the water and a sunset behind it. The program at Camp Jabulani helps conserve these animals and their habitat.
An Elephant Wanders at Sunset Near Camp Jabulani

Where should I visit next to support conservation efforts?

Finding your next destination to support conservation can be overwhelming. Our website lists many projects we’ve undertaken in incredible destinations around the world. You can read more about the work Solimar has done with the Choco community in Colombia, the efforts to conserve Bengal tiger habitats in the Sundarban region, and many others! Read more here about why Southern Tanzania is a great destination whose wildlife depends on tourists like you. The locals and safari camp sites here (along with many other places in southern and Eastern Africa) focus on anti-poaching and conservation efforts.

about 100 penguins at Boulder Beach in South Africa. This area is know for its array of wildlife, making conservation extremely important here.
Penguins at Boulder Beach, South Africa

Keep up with Solimar and our conservation projects here – don’t forget to like us on Facebook and LinkedIn!

negev desert tourism landscape

The Negev Desert comprises 60% of Israel and contains an impressive variety of dunes, red mountains, cliffs, craters, seas, and of course – local communities. Learn about Bedouin Tourism in Israel’s Negev Desert and social tourism.

negev desert tourism, a tourist touches a sacred rock solimar international

Tourism has a huge potential to positively impact communities, especially when it is conducted sustainably. In this blog post, we highlight “Community Trails” and Bedouin tourism in the Negev Desert, Israel. We interviewed Raz Arbel, a social tourism specialist, so get ready to be inspired!

Exposure to different social tourism projects can bring different perspectives to the table and help people think of ways to go about their own. Yet, universal “best practices” are rare, as every project should be adapted to the local context, and relate to the culture, needs, and resources the community possesses. In order to utilize tourism for sustainable development, cultural sensitivity, in-depth research, and immersion in the local environment are crucial.

The Bedouins are a semi-nomadic indigenous people, some of which still preserve their traditional lifestyle. The Negev is home to approximately 200,000 Bedouins, and in the past few years following Raz’s initiative, many have turned to tourism as a source of income.  

Negev Desert views. Credit: Ronny Pohl
Negev Desert views. Credit: Ronny Pohl

Raz Arbel has been an Israeli tourism professional for the last 30 years. He managed the Sde Boker Field School as well as the tourism department of Ramat HaNegev regional council. In recent years he is self-employed, leading various social tourism projects. In 2016, he partnered with Shay Yagel to create the “Community Trails” initiative, a network of marked multi-day hiking trails in Israel that aim to benefit local economies. Eventually, the project expanded to a wider product, with Bedouin hospitality at its core.   

What makes Bedouin Tourism in Israel and community trails a social tourism project?

Social tourism means that you enable local communities to earn a living from where they live, without forcing them to change their lifestyles. In the case of the Bedouins, for example, it means you don’t build special tents, but utilize the existing ones. If there’s a woman who bakes, she would bring bread for dinner. If someone makes carpets, you buy carpets from him to decorate the tent or sell to the visitors.  

What makes the community trails a successful desert product?

The desert product is an intimidating product. If you tell someone who has no prior experience of deserts, let’s hike in the desert, it would scare him. Here, through Community Trails, we facilitate movement within the desert in a safe way. There’s a path, it’s clearly marked, and you know you’ll reach a place to sleep with food at the end of the day. The Negev Highland Trail, for instance, spans from Merhav Am to Mitzpe Ramon and offers a beautiful desert landscape with archeological sites, natural water sources, and even wall paintings. 

When I guide tourists in the desert (on other occasions) I try to pass my self-confidence and certainty onto them. The Bedouin does it naturally. He sits on the ground, drinks tea from the fire, and walks barefoot at times. That magically changes your perception of the desert, and when a person gains this confidence he’s less intimidated and more open to experience the desert fully.

This issue is also the reason why the Israeli desert product that we helped develop is called the “friendly desert”.

So how did you get involved with the Bedouins?

In some parts of the Negev Highland Trail, Bedouin villages are the only communities around. When we traveled to the Bedouin villages to check if we could involve them in this development, we discovered that most have no experience in commercial hospitality. This was very surprising to us, given that hospitality is integral to Bedouin culture. The thing is that they don’t know the needs of a western tourist when they come to their tent.


photo of Raz Arbel who is a pioneer of bedouin tourism in israel
Photo of Raz Arbel

Can you give an example of this unfamiliarity?

Sure, typically when you sit around the fire with your host, the conversation stays around welcoming formalities. It is not part of Bedouin customs to talk about anything relating to your life, political views, diseases, whatever – as to not accidentally offend your guests or put them in an uncomfortable situation. It’s part of the Bedouin culture. The western tourist, on the other hand, often wants to hear about their host’s life. So our main efforts became creating a process that teaches the Bedouins how to host accordingly.

What was the training like?

Our first group was made of 16 men from the Arika Village (Wadi Arika). For 3 months, we taught them what tourism entails, what needs to be prepared in the tent so visitors feel comfortable, and how to tell a story about the tent, the camel, or the Bedouin lifestyle as a whole. We followed this up with individual mentoring that focused on additional services each host could offer his guests.

In total, we trained 12 groups of men and 12 groups of women all across the Bedouin community. We started with the community trails project, but once the Bedouins started hosting, they opened it to anyone interested. Suddenly, jeep tours started bringing in tourists, as well as other tourism operators, and the product became much wider in scope than what we had originally expected. Through that, more local products developed like shepherding, various workshops, and  more.

A traditional Bedouin tourism in israel experience involving brewing tea along a community trali


Can you share some major challenges you faced in the development of this project and how you responded to them?

One of the biggest problems is with availability, where most of the time, Bedouins don’t answer numbers they don’t know. To solve this challenge, we initially gave out our phone numbers to the public. This way, we were the mediators that would facilitate communication between interested tourists and the reservation hosts. 

Now, a Mitzpe Ramon based NGO called Keshet is building a website that will facilitate the reservation process for the Bedouins and provide phone availability. They’ll do this by making agreements with each individual Bedouin.

Another challenge was that many of the villages were unrecognized by the state. As a consequence, something as simple as building a proper western toilet was seen as a violation, and thus they were destroyed. After a lot of time and effort, we reached an agreement about the enforcement mechanisms settled upon the rule that the toilets would be of temporary construction and destroyed only if the whole village would be evacuated. 

Because of our work, the project eventually got planning approval, which was a significant achievement. This meant the villages received a permanent status as traditional localities.

What impact does social tourism have on the Bedouin people?

Firstly, it is economical for them. The Bedouin people can stay at home and earn money from it. Secondly, it fosters local pride. Third, it promotes cleanliness. Locals care more about what their environment looks like. Additionally, it bridges and connects communities, especially Jews and Bedouins, but also tourists from overseas and Bedouins. Lastly, it causes parents to encourage their kids to learn English so they can communicate with tourists.

Bedouin Desert weaving beautiful fabrics

So what you’re saying is that the project had not only a positive economic impact on the Bedouins, but also on the cultural level?

Yes, it caused them to return to their traditions, and in some cases even relearn them. At a certain stage, we wanted to involve women in the tourism industry, but because most of them don’t speak good English or Hebrew, they couldn’t host directly or share stories. So instead, we focused on traditional crafts like embroidery and weaving, making goat cheese, or traditional breads. Some of the younger girls had no idea how to do it, so we taught them, and it became an integral part of the hosting experience. As a result, the man was proud that his wife brought the traditional food or a hand-crafted dress she made. This involvement shows the many benefits of bedouin tourism in Israel.

So, eventually it creates pride in their tradition?

Absolutely! The most important thing that happens in authentic or social tourism is the development of local pride. I saw it in more places, not only among the Bedouins.  

That’s why I believe social tourism is one of the most interesting and important tourism products that will develop all across Israel in the next few years.

Thank you! 

The project’s new website (for Bedouin tourism products) will be launched at the beginning of 2022, so be sure to check it out for an authentic desert experience in Israel!

To sum up, social tourism can be greatly impactful, though challenging at times. Working alongside the community, understanding the local culture, as well as the tourists’ experiences, are key factors in the development of a successful and sustainable product. This case study of bedouin tourism in Israel is a perfect example!

At Solimar, we specialize in supporting and managing tourism for social development. Solimar’s project in Armenia, for instance, helped develop the cultural tourism industry primarily through community-based sustainable tourism. Have a look at more of our projects here.

“We rely confidently on Solimar's deep technical experience and professionalism as tourism consultants. You always are exceeding our expectations.”
Leila Calnan, Senior Manager, Tourism Services Cardno Emerging Markets

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