Tourists are back on Tunisia’s beaches after charter flights resumed to the North African country following a break of more than three months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Some 155 mask-clad holiday makers from France, Germany and Luxembourg were greeted late last week on the resort island of Djerba with temperature checks — but also by hostesses offering them bouquets of jasmine, said the “The Daily Mail.”
“We can’t save the whole season, but we will do everything we can to save part of it,” said Tourism Minister Mohamed Ali Toumi, who was at the airport to welcome the Luxair flight.
It reopened its borders on June 27, and travellers from countries it classifies as “green”, including France, Germany and Luxembourg, are not subject to any coronavirus restrictions.
“You have managed the health crisis better than us,” said Patrick, a Frenchman in his sixties who arrived with his son for 10 days in the Tunisian sun.
Tourism accounts for between eight and 14 percent of Tunisia’s GDP, and employs around half a million people.
The novel coronavirus crisis has hit the sector hard.
Tourism revenues declined by around 50 percent between January 1 and July 10, compared to the same period last year, according to official figures.
Authorities are counting on health regulations to reassure tourists and the sector, and have halved hotel capacity in order to comply with anti-coronavirus measures.
“We are determined to strictly apply the health protocol,” the tourism minister said.
Authorities are hoping for a revival of the sector in early 2021.
Algerians and Libyans missing
If European visitors are once again becoming infatuated with Tunisia, the same cannot be said of our Maghreb neighbors.
The number of Libyan and Algerian tourists has decreased, in the first half of 2020, by 56% compared to the same period in 2019, according to the Director General of Tunisia’s National Tourist Office (ONTT) Mohamed Moez Ben Hassine.
Tunisia welcomed nearly 5 million tourists from Algeria and Libya in 2020,” he said at a meeting held in Tunis by the Tunisian Union of Young Workers (UTJ) on the measures and mechanisms for boosting post-COVID-19 tourism.
The official also recalled the various measures taken by the Tunisian government in order to minimize the impact of the coronavirus on tourism.
He said a credit line of 500 million dinars has been created to help tourist companies to overcome the crisis, ensure their sustainability and preserve jobs.
At the same time, a financing line of about 10 million dinars has been mobilized to support craftsmen, cover urgent expenses and set up a health protocol in airports and hotels.
Elsewhere in North Africa, Morocco announced a further easing of its own coronavirus restrictions on Sunday, allowing tourist establishments to operate at full capacity but keeping borders closed.
A ‘third phase’ of easing was set to come into effect on Monday, authorities said in a statement, as part of ‘the continued implementation of measures necessary for a gradual return to normal life and restarting the economy’.
Tourist businesses are now allowed to ‘use 100 per cent of their capacity, without exceeding 50 per cent in common areas’ such as restaurants, pools and indoor sports facilities.
But the kingdom will keep its borders closed ‘until further notice’, except for returning Moroccans and residents.
Since June, Morocco has allowed cafes, restaurants and shops to reopen and for domestic tourism to restart.
A state of health emergency remains in place in Morocco until August 10.