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Tuesday 22 June 2021
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Ministry of Tourism should review its promotional strategy, otherwise Tunisia will no longer be a desirable destination, says Afif Kchouk

In an interview with Africanmanager, Afif Kchouk, hotel keeper and Tourism Fair organizer, said “the rescue of the tourism sector will depend on the establishment of a security system and another of adequate intelligence”. Similarly, this sector requires the training of all tourism personnel, without forgetting that the achievement of this objective requires the launch of a large promotional campaign to regain the confidence of tourists.

Interview:

Last June 26, Tunisia was the scene of a carnage that left 38 dead and over forty injured. Do you think that Tunisia has not learned from the Bardo attack that killed 23 people?

At first it is important to note that several vulnerabilities have been noted during the execution of Friday’s attack on the beach of the Hotel Imperial in El Kantaoui. An unusual change was observed compared to the Bardo attack that took place last March as the number of victims has doubled, especially as the author of this crime had perpetrated the attack while showing a significant degree of professionalism.

I think Seifeddine Rezgui executed the attack after a prior “immersion” in his target and he has well prepared his plan to achieve his objective.

What are then the implications of this heinous crime?

We have well talked about the direct impact of this attack on the Tunisian economy, but we forgot that you need just to affect the tourism sector to harm the image of Tunisia. This is really an attack on the openness of Tunisia and its symbolism.

I think it is the harbinger of the exclusion of this country from its external environment, including the European.

The attack aimed at breaking our link with the West, but to break our ties with civilization. This would therefore generate a return to the past.

Can we explain this by a failure in the work of the security bodies?

We must recognize that terrorism has grown in the past four years in Tunisia especially with the existence of a reference cell in Libya. Other factors have helped the growth of this phenomenon; it is the surge in smuggling and the informal trade.

I think the attack in Sousse was prepared in Libya and the situation is more complicated than imagined.

For the failure, it would be possible, especially since the Interior Ministry has not reacted to the publication by the attacker of a post few hours before the execution of his plan. This hypothesis would prove the existence of a certain security gap and subsequently a certain complicity in the operation.

If this hypothesis is confirmed, several questions would inevitably arise.

What about the economic effects?

Arguably the attack in Sousse was the most severe blow to a key sector which contributes 7% of GDP, tourism. The proof is that as of July 10, 11 and 12 most hotels will be empty with a huge shortfall.

In such a situation, losses could be estimated at around 1 billion dinars. This is a worrying figure, especially as there would be hotels threatened by closure. It is also a complete halt to the country since the attack has affected tourism, which employs more than 480,000 people.

An 80% decline in the European market is expected. For the Algerian and Tunisian markets, estimates cannot be made because of the lack of accurate figures available.

For the activity in general, a decline of 25% is expected throughout the year. Therefore, the results would not be negative only for tourism but for all sectors.

The tourism department has implemented a series of measures in response to this attack. Do you think that these actions could help manage the crisis?

In my view, these measures come late and are insufficient compared to the volume of losses, all the more so that they could not save the sector; hoteliers have not enough money to cope.

These are, in my opinion, proposals and not measures. The department has decided, for instance, to cancel the departure tax of 30 TD. But the question that now arises is how can we replace the shortfall in the state budget?

We must recognize that we need a law to cancel the tax. Similarly, the implementation of these measures, for now, is very difficult.

Recently, the Secretary General of the General Union of the National Guard said the deployment of 1,000 officers to secure hotels is an expensive operation. He therefore called for the establishment of private companies to be responsible for this mission. What do you think?

Initially, it should be noted that there is no specific legislation in Tunisia which stipulates the creation of such companies especially as the carrying of weapons is permitted only for the military and security agents.

So it is a difficult proposition. However, we might suggest increasing the number of security officers to reach 5000. I assure you that hoteliers are willing to take charge of their salaries.

The creation of such companies requires a lot of time while Tunisia needs a faster and above all effective response. How to act then?

Today more than ever we need a global security system. All stakeholders and tourism professionals must have the security intuition to be able to act in real time.

Besides the introduction of this system, we need to provide security training to professionals operating in this sector.

Is it possible today to meet this challenge?

It is possible, given that the suggestion does not require a special effort, but the use of awareness campaigns. Similarly, the fight against terrorism is a shared responsibility. It is not only the role of the security and military body, but all stakeholders are involved.

But how to regain the confidence of foreign tourists?

I insist on the establishment of a global security system and more on the reactivation of the intelligence service.

Apart from these two actions, I think that the Ministry of Tourism is also called to review its promotion policy already adopted several years ago. The latter should be based on new methods and should be in line with customer expectations. But we must admit that the results would only be realized in a period of 3 years. However, if we limit ourselves to some traditional activities, I assure you we would no longer a tourism product and Tunisia would never be a favorite tourist destination for foreigners and even for Tunisians.

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