Since the passage of the relevant law 102 of 1983, twenty-seven Protected Areas have been declared in Egypt. The Protected Area Network (PAN) represents most of the habitats and ecosystems of Egypt; however, there are other important hotspots, which will be included in the future. Plans are in place to increase the number of Protectorates to 40 and the land area covered to 17% by the year 2017. Recently the Northern Red Sea Islands, Umm el-Dabadib and Gilf Kebir have been added to Egypt�s PAN.
Biodiversity, outstanding landscapes and geological formations are all included in the PAN. Four protected areas have been designated for their geological significance and unique landscapes, notably the White Desert. Cultural heritage in every part of Egypt, also receives high consideration. Local people and their cultures, together with potential utility for eco-tourism are also important aspects of the protected areas.
Much effort has been invested in the management of protected areas, so that they fulfill their objectives. Many of the sites now have effective management plans, infrastructure, and equipment and are run by professional staff.
Today, more people are traveling than ever before and many countries depend on tourism for a large part, if not the majority, of their income. However, as more tourists visit areas of special natural or cultural interest they place great, sometimes-unsustainable, stress on these sites.
The environment of Egypt is more susceptible to stress than that of many other countries. Therefore, the government is actively promoting the development of eco-tourism as a means of sustainable utilization of fragile habitats. The coastal resorts of Egypt are among the fastest growing tourism developments in the world. There are now eco-tourism options that help to underpin the tourism industry. These include:
� Wilderness trekking.
� Eco-archeological tourism.
� Religious tourism.
� Nature safaris: bird watching, nature walks.
� Diving on the Red Sea reefs.