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Artificial Reefs and Mass Marine Ecotourism

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Deploying artificial reefs on the seabed has become popular in diving management. This practice has been advocated as a means towards meeting both ecological concerns and recreational divers’ demands for diversification and themed experiences. Nevertheless, the perceptions of the user community itself – the scuba divers – regarding the establishment of artificial reefs have received only limited attention in the literature. Their views on critical issues concerning artificial reefs remain, as a result, fairly vague and speculative. The aim of the current paper is to bridge this gap in the literature by presenting the results of a study exploring divers’ attitudes and preferences with regards to the plan for a new artificial reef along the northern shore of the Red Sea in Eilat, Israel. The findings indicate that the potential integration of this artificial reef was well perceived by the divers, regarding its contribution both to the diving experience and to the natural environment. The divers also expressed their preference for large objects with a themed structure as artificial reefs, such as naval ships and airplanes, rather than more generic and amorphous forms, such as concrete blocks or pipes. Overall, the study points toward the marketing potential of developing mass marine ecotourism through the deployment of artificial reefs at diving sites, as well as the prospect of promoting soft ecotourism in modified marine environments.
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Keywords: Eilat; Israel; Red Sea; Soft ecotourism; artificial reefs; conservation; mass ecotourism; recreational scuba diving; tourist attraction; tourists’ preferences

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Hotel and Tourism Management,Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel 2: Department of Life Sciences,Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel

Publication date: 2012-08-01

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