Tunisia seeks tourists as political instability continues

Published April 3rd, 2013 - 11:17 GMT
The tourism sector is one of the country's largest employers, with 350,000 people
The tourism sector is one of the country's largest employers, with 350,000 people

Tunisian salafists on Sunday (March 31st) night torched a brand-new tourist facility in the coastal town of Hergla.

The arson attack on the beach development is a 'huge loss for the region" the project director told Jawhara FM. Hergla residents also protested the destruction of the new site.

The incident comes amidst Tunisia's new efforts to boost its tourism sector, which dropped off after the revolution and never fully rebounded.

To improve the economy and add jobs, Tunisia is now more determined than ever to bring the visitors back.

Tunisia is preparing to kick off a promotion campaign this month for the tourist season under the slogan "Live in Tunisia Freely". The campaign invites foreign tourists to visit the post-revolution Tunisia. It also reassures them about the security situation in the country.

"The campaign will highlight the richness of the Tunisian tourist product, especially the cultural inventory, and will also draw attention to the importance of health tourism and treatment with sea water," Tunisian National Tourism Board (ONTT) Director Habib Ammar said.

The tourism sector is one of the country's largest employers, with 350,000 people. Its revenues cover 60% of Tunisia's trade deficit and represent 6.5% of the country's gross domestic product.

Political and security instability in Tunisia in the first months of this year is casting a shadow on the industry.

ONTT statistics released last month show a 20% decline in foreign visitors, compared to 2010.

Sector officials attributed this decline to the spread of violence and precarious security situation in the country, including the US embassy attack on September 15th, 2012 and the assassination of opposition figure Chokri Belaid last February.

Under these circumstances, professionals stressed the need to rescue the industry by helping consolidate its position on the international level and putting an end to political and security tensions.

"All politicians and government officials must draw a clear roadmap for the future of this country and must also distance themselves from violence and conflicts in order to restore the trust of tourists and dispel their fears," Mohamed Bouriga, owner of a travel agency in Tunis, said.

"The return of tourists and recovery of the sector will require a minimum of political and social stability and security before starting any promotion campaigns," Roukaya Dhouib, a salesperson said.

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