Tuesday 21 November 2017

Tunisia tourism figures fall by one million since terrorist attack

'High risk' of further attacks

SOUSSE, TUNISIA - JUNE 30: A woman looks at flowers laid on Marhaba beach in Sousse, where 38 people were killed in a terror attack. Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
SOUSSE, TUNISIA - JUNE 30: A woman looks at flowers laid on Marhaba beach in Sousse, where 38 people were killed in a terror attack. Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Soo Kim, Reuters, Pól Ó Conghaile

The number of foreign visitors to Tunisia has dropped by 20 per cent following the terror attacks this summer.

Tunisia’s foreign visitor numbers have fallen to four million from the start of this year to September 10, compared to the five million who visited in the same period last year, Salma Loumi, the country’s tourism minister, said yesterday.

The North African country, where tourism accounts for around 7pc of gross domestic product (GDP), has been under a state of emergency since the June 26 shootings, when 38 people, including three Irish, were killed by a gunman at a hotel in Sousse.

Three months earlier, 21 tourists were attacked by gunmen at the Bardo National Museum in the capital city of Tunis.

Security has been heightened around tourist sites and other popular locations in the city since the two Islamic State militant group attacks, which were declared to be the worst in the country's history.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has advised against all non-essential travel to Tunisia amid fears of "a high risk of further attack".

Earlier this summer, it was predicted that a similar warning by the UK Foreign Office could be lifted within “weeks, certainly months” if the government of Habid Essid, the Tunisian prime minister, could impose tighter security around hotels, Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, said.

In the wake of the attacks, Sunway suspended its Tunisia holiday programme.

An empty Tunisian beach. File photo: Deposit
An empty Tunisian beach. File photo: Deposit

"As soon as the Department of Foreign Affairs changes its travel advice, we at Sunway would be delighted to look at reintroducing Tunisia to Irish holidaymakers for summer 2016,"Tanya Airey, its Managing Director, told Independent Travel.

"Tunisia has been a firm favourite with our customers for many years, so we hope to be able to offer this beautiful destination in the very near future."

British tour operators TUI and Thomas Cook have also cancelled their Tunisia programmes until next year, while tour operators across Europe have shifted some of their routes to destinations including Spain.

Some hotels have closed while foreign tour groups have cancelled some routes, cruises and packages. The Spanish hotel group RIU, which is a part of TUI, said it was reviewing its presence in Tunisia.

"Three of the hotels we manage will be closed over the winter months and we need to talk to the owners of the other hotels we manage there to see what we can do," said a spokeswoman for RIU, which runs 10 hotels in Tunisia.

Tunisia has reduced its economic growth forecast to 0.5 per cent for this year, down from its initially anticipated three per cent.

Mr Loumi hopes Tunisia can take advantage of the country’s current difficult period to work on reform, including diversifying the country’s tourism options.


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