The article examines processes of tourism development in the Israeli desert town of Mitzpe Ramon from the perspective of community-based tourism (CBT), a position that emphasizes the empowerment of local communities as a criterion of sustainability.
The methodological approach of the study adopts elements of ethnohistory, in which historical documents are cross-referenced with ethnographic data to provide a portrayal across time that includes the perspectives of both locals (emic) and researchers (ethic).
A review of the past six decades of the town’s existence reveals that while some of the local communities in Mitzpe Ramon tend to engage in and benefit from tourism development, other local communities are disinterested and/or excluded from this process.
This observation complies with the perspective of CBT that local communities are generally derived from a mixture of sub-groups with distinct attitudes, interests and social standing. Furthermore, the presented data suggest that while some aspects of empowerment were reinforced due to tourism development, other aspects deteriorated in result of this dynamic. Thus, the study supports the notion of empowerment as a varied and relative construct.