Sustainable Tourism Development in the Israeli Negev Desert: An Integrative Approach


  • Arie Reichel
  • Natan Uriely


Postmodern tourism, Sustainable development, desert, Negev, and planning.


This paper presents a conceptual strategic approach for sustainable tourism development in desert areas with the Israeli Negev region as its focus. The approach advocated in this paper refers to both the suggested processes and the conceptual themes that might be utilized for developing sustainable tourism in isolated desert areas. In terms of suggested processes, the paper presents a two-tier development process, where central planning lays the foundation for entrepreneurial profitmaking ventures. This approach emphasizes both the role of individual entrepreneurs and the need for the development of a guiding master plan in the area. With respect to the contents of the attractions, the current study proposes an approach that combines cultural heritage and natureoriented themes with simulated attractions.The strategic approach presented in this paper is illustrated with respect to two master plans for future sustainable tourism development in the Israeli Negev Desert: a) “The Incense and Spice Road” (ISR) that passes through the Negev Desert, and b) a sustainable tourism development project planned for the Negev town of Yeruham. The ISR project, conceived by the Israel Ministry of Regional Cooperation, was recognized by UNESCO as an “international landmark heritage project” ( Its declared vision is to facilitate accelerated growth of the Negev through rapid growth of the tourism industry. The project is supposed to follow the ancient Incense and Spice Route that stretched from the Persian Gulf to the shores of the Mediterranean and ran parallel to the Silk Road.The master plan for the economically depressed town of Yeruham, which is located on top of the Great Crater in the Negev area, was designed by the Department of Hotel and Tourism Management at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The objective of this plan was to emphasize the open landscape of the desert as a potential environment for frontier tourism development based on nature-oriented themes.Overall, the paper endorses an integrative conceptual approach in which seemingly contradicting planning aspects are integrated as a means for developing sustainable tourism in desert areas. Specifically, the “bothand” perspective endorsed in this paper can be viewed as an alternative to the “either-or” attitude that characterized previous tourism development attempts in the Negev as well as in other desert areas designated for tourism.