This presentation is about the relationship between the political establishment in the peripheral areas and the tourist behavior along desert roadways. For a long time the way between two places was an obstacle that whose cost in terms of time and fuel consumption had to be minimized. Since 1976 there has been a change in understanding this issue from the tourism point of view. This new way of thinking was described in Mariot’s model of ‘’tourist flows between two locations” (to show the model) this model teaches us that beside the access and return route that link a place of permanent residence and the tourist center, there is the recreational way along which the tourists can enjoy the facilities even if this wasn’t the main object of the journey. This new way of understanding the economic potential of the recreational route has had a great influence on rural areas that had difficulties to provide decent living to their villages, especially to the small ones whose people make their living from agriculture. Many sites all over the world have created economic benefits by providing a little entertainment along the roads leading to the main destination as is the case in The Galilee.(small winery, a little restaurant, and even an archeological site)
For 50 years the highway to Eilat hasn’t succeeded in developing any resort along the Arava. The places where the tourists stop for refreshments such as Hazeva , Ein-Yahav, Yotveta, Beer-Manucha, have not change since the establishment of Israel. Although these places have been renovated to some degree, they still remain just that- small gas stations. Even the biggest station –Yotveta - cannot attract tourists to spend their time seeing interesting sites in the surrounding area. (Show some places)
For forty years nobody has been bothered by these issues. The settlements along the Arava have been focusing on their communal life and didn’t like to be disturbed by foreigners, especially tourist, (this comment is also true about most of the settlements in the Galilee region). The economic problems have been resolved as result of political interests, (an issue which we won’t embark upon now) and the tolerance of the low standard of living provided by agriculture. However, as a result of the political changes that have occurred in Israel in the last twenty years, the Arava settlements are in desperate need of finding new ways of making a living. Out of the 1.5 million domestic tourists, from which Arava settlements can hardly attract 10% to use their natural and historical sites.
The legitimate question to be asked is why the settlements in the Galilee have succeeded in creating tourist attraction while the Arava ones have not. Why the business efforts in the Arava have not yielded the expected return.
This research will try to answer this question.
The key solution to the problem is to understand the tourist’s way of thinking and how the subconscious affects their behavior. In some rural areas there is no problem to benefit from passing tourists and the break in their journey makes the trip more interesting, but this is not always the case. Sometime the domestic tourist wishes to feel as a foreigner in his own country. It seems that the domestic tourists who drive to Eilat, try to leave behind the agglomeration of the urban areas, and to enjoy the feeling of being far away from their place of residence (even if the distance is not so big in terms of mileage). In this case, the long drive and even the boring and dull landscape which offers no entertainment along the way makes the arrival to the chosen sight –Eilat–, very attractive and creates the illusion of being abroad. The attempt to offer the tourists attractions on the way will spoil the pleasure of arriving at the Oasis of Eilat in Israel, or to Sun-city in South Africa.
This tourist behavior seems illogical to the political establishment, which haven't Acknowledge the facts that for 50 years no tourist resort has been developed on the way to Eilat even though Timna is such a beautiful site that has all the necessary components required by a landscape resort.
No one denies the facts, every one sees that no place has grown beyond the gas-station; the problem is how to convince the political establishment not to try to change the situation itself.
150 subjects from places northern to Arad and Dimona have participated in this research. The main purpose of the research was to inquire “The attitude of the Israeli tourist towards the sites located along the Arava highway on the way to Eilat”.
The main questions were about choosing the route to Eilat (there are 4 options –not included the airplane option).It is important to mention that the choice among the 4 options does not make any difference.
The other question referred to visiting or knowing the sites along the way, as well as the reason for not wishing to visit them.
Most of the answers show that the Israeli visitor uses the 4 route options to get to Eilat. 80% of them stopped at Yotveta gas-station, 80% knew at least 3 sites from the 11 sites on the list. The most popular site was Park-Timna which is one of the high school obligatory sites included in any school outing program. 50% didn't hear of 80% of the sites. 60% answer that they think that the way to Eilat is too long anyhow, or that the sites along the Arava doesn't interest them.
The conclusion of the research was:
Plans should not be based on the large volume of tourists that aims itself to Eilat. What has to be changed is the attitude toward the facts and try to provide for the tourist whose interest is in the landscape of Arava plains and the Negev desert. Plans should be based on the preferences of the local people who will need to maintain these sites during the out season. Otherwise, these sites will not survive. It is obvious that most tourists that go to Eilat are not interested in being entertained along the way and any interference will spoil their satisfaction. (The only entertainment that can possibly stop them is an enormous mall, a project that is not feasible in this area).
The model that teaches us that the road to the resort is part of the entertainment doesn’t fit the roadways along the Arava. .It has been found that the opposite is true; the entrance to Eilat will be more fabulous if the tourist drive along a dull road to their destination.