“To govern is to foresee,” said Emile de Girardin. Elyes Fakhfakh certainly could not foresee the COVID-19 pandemic. But he could not fail to foresee the post-COVID19 race for tourists. His dozen advisers could at least give him a digest of the international press.
“To govern is to choose between two disadvantages,” Pierre Waldeck said. Elyes Fakhfakh had to choose between the danger of a coronavirus which is gradually dying out and that has not caused more victims than road traffic, and the danger of putting a whole economy and especially a sector (tourism) which represents 15.1% of GDP under artificial respiration.
So far, his choice has not been made. François Mitterrand finally said, “Governing is not to please”. However, Fakhfakh has chosen to please all those for whom the crisis is mainly social, before being economic or financial.
In Tunisia, “to govern is to do nothing”, could say Elyes Fakhfakh, former Minister of Tourism in the government of the Islamist Hammadi Jebali.
Mekki, the minister who hurts tourism
According to an UNCTAD report dated 2017, the tourism sector in Tunisia represents 15.1% of GDP.
Due to coronavirus, the sector’s losses this year would exceed the 4 billion TD already projected by the IMF, although Minister Mohamed Ali Toumi still hopes that 2020 will not be a lost year.
This remains however very likely in a Tunisia where the government still cannot think of anything else than coronavirus, and that its measures to support the economic fabric remain, either difficult to apply, since Elyes Fakhfakh has not provided for implementing decrees for his decree-laws and circulars of the BCT for banks in particular, or, for the majority, still simple draft measures on a simple document leaked and not yet officially announced and stated.
Elsewhere than in Tunisia, the race for tourists for countries where the sector is economically decisive is already underway.
“It is now possible for foreign tourists to book their holidays in Spain from July, announced the Spanish Minister of Tourism” quoted by Le Figaro.
From June 3, Italy will open its borders, “date on which all national airports will be able to reopen and arrivals will be possible without quarantine or “black list” from neighboring countries. The peninsula is therefore inviting the resumption of tourism. In an op-ed in the German daily Bild, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio sends a clear message: “Come and spend your holidays in Italy. Come and visit our beaches, our coasts, our mountain villages, taste our cuisine. We are ready to welcome you. “, reports the French channel LCI. Portugal, through the voice of its Minister of Foreign Affairs, Augusto Santos Silvadit, wanted to be more than reassuring. “Tourists are welcome this summer,” he said on Friday May 22 in L’Observador, as reported by Le Figaro, quoted by CNEWS.
In all this information, the announcement effect has been essential in the race for tourists.
Reopening schedule ready
In Tunisia, a country where tourism is almost exclusively sea-side tourism, official statements are far from reassuring, with a Minister of Health driving home the point by decreeing a ban on bathing; at most he would agree to put Tunisian beaches under police surveillance.
Abdellatif Mekki is more willing to ride his horse of health threats, declaring that general lockdown could make a comeback.
These attitudes are far from those, more economically responsible, of many European officials, and are not intended to reassure foreign tourists about the choice of Tunisia as a destination for their next holidays.
Abdellatif Mekki is said to have apologized for this, claiming that his words would have been quicker than his thoughts.
But the damage has already been done, and the effect of the announcement that would put Tunisia back in the international race for tourists has been done, not on the recovery, but on the closure of beaches and the continuing danger of coronavirus!
We understand, however, that the reopening schedule would already be in the boxes. The Tunisian Minister of Tourism confirmed this to AfricanManager.
Tunisian hotels will be authorized to reopen from June 4, 2020. To this end, Minister of Tourism, Mohamed Ali Toumi told Africanmanager on Tuesday May 26, 2020 that the health protocol will be at the hotels tonight before being put on the ministry’s website, in two versions, one lightened by 3 pages and the other detailed in 32 pages, to facilitate their work.
This will be followed by the re-establishment of inter-regional traffic, to facilitate the influx of local tourists during the first fortnight of June 2020,” Mohamed Ali Toumi told us.
The Minister of Tourism has also pointed out that, on Wednesday, he will have a meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the Minister of Transport as well, to study the reopening of the Tunisian borders.
“I would like and I will push towards an opening of the borders at the end of June 2020”.
Tunisair will by that time be ready, particularly in terms of procedures that respect barrier gestures and distancing, and tourists will be able to come to Tunisia.