The Port of La Goulette, welcomed what is reported to be the first cruise ship to dock in Tunis since the Bardo attack of last year.
The arrival of the MS Europa in Tunis this morning could be the first indication that Tunisia is beginning to win back the confidence of foreign tourists. The 310 passengers -mostly German- disembarked at 7.30am and were treated to oriental dancers, camel rides and, according to a Tunisia Live reporter, a heavy security presence.
The initiative to woo cruise ships back to the ports of Tunisia began with local businessman Slim Ben Jaballah of Tunisian travel agent Hope Travel.
Tourism had been an important part of the Tunisian economy, accounting for 7% of Tunisian GDP until the tragedy at the Bardo Museum on 15 March, 2015 and the subsequent attack in Sousse on 26 June 2015.
Tourism expert, Moez Kacem told Tunisia Live that “the industry is in the red” referring to income for Tunisian hotels, travel agencies as well as the associated artisan industries and souvenir vendors, pointing to the need for the private sector to take the initiative in resurrecting the country’s struggling tourism industry, as in the case of Hope Travel and The Europa.
According to Kacem, the government should take responsibility for training tourism workers in order to improve services, as well as taking better care of public services and the environment. Kacem also spoke about the disappointment tourists feel seeing dirty beaches and littered streets, telling Tunisia Live,”for tourism to improve we need to take care of the services, security and the environment.”
Although domestic and l Algerians tourism has contributed to overall revenue this year, Kacem acknowledged, “it is not what we need. What we need is hard currency,” (such as dollars, pounds and Euros). One of the problems for areas where tourism is focused, Kacem said, were the “all-inclusive offers of hotels and resorts, which is hurting the local restaurants and coffee shops. Guests just come and stay in the hotel.” He also accused the government of “a lack of clear planning and strategy” saying that current and previous ministers had no expertise in the industry.
Kacem also stressed the link between the overall political and economic “conditions of the country” and the state of the toursim industry, saying that “in order for tourism to recover the other sectors [political and economic also] need to improve.”
German MP, Peter Steiner who visited Tunis on Tuesday (4th September) as part of a commission from Germany, noted improvements in Tunisian Security. Steiner was reportedly upbeat about the future, saying “Tunisia is in a good position to bounce [back].” He added that “It is important to convey this message in Germany and Europe to tourists who can enjoy a good holiday in Tunisia.”