Tourism

   This is a major aspect of the economies of Berber land, and in some countries and regions, such as the Canary Islands, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Tunisia, and Siwa, it accounts for a considerable share of commercial activities. Berber land's Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Saharan climate; its mountains and spectacular desert vistas, lush oases, and stunning geological formations, with traditional and colonial architecture of villages and cities; and its long and varied history and cultures, much of which is preserved in historical and archaeological sites and parks, have combined to make Berber land one of the most attractive tourist destinations.
   The tourism industry dates back to the colonial and postcolonial periods, when state-driven initiatives opened resort establishments along the coastal areas, in historic towns and cities, and in the Sahara. In 1922, André Citroën, the engineer and founder of Citroën motor company, planned and organized what the French called a "raid" across the Sahara. The practical objectives of this business and engineering venture were to test his newly designed "caterpillar" cars, which were an adaptation of the British tank, and to link Tunis with Timbuktu. The Citroën expedition is one of the most important events in the modern history of the Sahara, for its effect on the life of the desert was to be greater than any previous European penetration.
   For that matter, even the animals were affected, and their chances of survival were endangered. It is fair to observe from what goes on in the Sahara today that, thanks to the automobile revolution, camels have become almost obsolete and gazelles, antelopes, desert hares, and moufllon have been brought to the brink of extinction. After the successful crossing of the Sahara by his automobiles, André Citroën was determined to make the desert a real holiday resort, shrewdly calculating that nothing pacifies a country as quickly as tourism. He also drew a grandiose scheme for building hotels across the Sahara, equipped with modern amenities, including bathrooms, running water, radios, and air-conditioned bars. The Citroën project, in many interesting ways, foreshadowed the development of "le grand tourisme saharien." This project is the precursor to the annual Paris-to-Dakar rally.
   Since independence, especially in the non-oil producing countries, tourism has been a major source of hard currency and employment, directly and indirectly providing jobs to a significant segment of the working population. There are, however, serious problems facing the industry. With the exception of small scale ecotourism establishments, much of the industry is in the hands of foreign investors and tour operators. Moreover, the concentration of tourism in certain areas has intensified socioeconomic disparities between resort and nonresort areas, and it has in some places put tremendous stress on fragile resources, particularly in seaside resorts and desert oases, where tourists have altered old ways of interacting with the carrying capacity of the environment.
   Another negative aspect of reliance on tourism is that it is a highly volatile and sensitive sector to internal as well external economic and political influences. Forces in the form of global recessions, insecurity threats, and political unrest lead most often to recurrent and unsustainable economic trends in the industry. For example, in February-March 2003, the perceived image of Tuareg lands becoming a haven for terrorists was intensified by the kidnapping of 32 European tourists in southern Algeria. They were released in August of the same year. The abduction, blamed on one of the Algerian radical Islamist movements, received global media coverage. This event had two immediate consequences on Tuareg tourism. First, it devastated tourism in the central Sahara, and hence the Tuareg were robbed of one of their main sources of income. Second, it proved that the region was insecure, and thus tourists stayed away and livelihoods were compromised.

Historical Dictionary of the Berbers (Imazighen) . . 2014.

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