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Tunisia: General Equalization Fund maintained and even strengthened

Following on meetings with the press, Minister of Trade and Tourism, Mehdi Houas, held one more, Wednesday, to focus on different challenges of the trade and tourism sectors and ” fast and effective solutions to revitalize tourism and save the summer season. ”

The Minister announced that prices of basic consumer products will not be increased during the period ahead as the Interim Government remains totally committed to maintaining the General Equalization Fund as a mechanism that benefits broader layers of the Tunisian society.

Moreover, new products were added to the list of subsidized food from January 14, 2011, such as semi-skimmed milk, tomato paste and sugar. In total, the cost of compensation amounts for the current year to 1,256 million dinars against 700 MTD planned by the State budget in 2011, knowing that the Ministry of Commerce and Tourism is currently working with the parties concerned on how to cover the additional needs as part of an additional finance draft law.

On the other hand, according to statistics revealed at the press conference, the household consumer price index recorded a rise of 0.2% in March, against 0.1% in the same period last year, which helped control the inflation rate within 3.1% against 4.9% during the same period in 2010.

In addition, Mehdi Houas said that the decline in the volume of imports has accelerated at the end of first quarter (Q1) of this year, reaching 15.3% against 7.7% recorded respectively at the end of February and late January 2011. However, and as a result of the price increase of about 20%, purchases abroad rose by 1.7%.at the end of Q1 of the current year. For the third consecutive month, imports of capital goods continue to drop, to achieve, after Q1 of this year, a rate of 18.3%, resulting mainly from the achievements of the general scheme.

The minister said it is important to support damaged businesses to help them resume their activities. Compensation measures have been taken for damaged businesses as the trade sector has suffered enormous damage, especially in retail trade and household appliances.

Emphasis was also placed on the importance of resuming commercial activities with Libya, all the more so that exports to Libya carried out via the border crossing at Ras Jedir stopped completely on February 20, 2011. However, resumption was noted from March 3 but at a slow pace.

Regarding tourism, the minister said hotel services need to be improved as part of the plan for strengthening the tourism sector, including particularly a charm campaign which will be launched soon in Algeria to seduce Algerian tourists. It will target the Algerian media and will seek to assure Algerian tourists of the security situation in Tunisia.

This action was decided in response to fall by 37% of the rate of flow of Algerian tourists since the beginning of the year. The fundamental objective of this campaign is to attract more than 350, 000 tourists Algerians during the summer months of June and July 2011, compared with an average of 400,000 tourists before.

The minister said the campaign also includes a Tunisian participation in the Tourism Fair in Oran to be held from April 12 to 15 and the Fair of Algiers from April 18 to 21 2011.

In this context, a fund of 252,000 dollars was allocated to the advertising campaigns planned in Algeria. It should be noted that negotiations were recently conducted with the Algerian side to open a sea route between the ports of Algeria and Tunisia in order to facilitate the transport of Algerian tourists and their vehicles during the peak period. No less than one million Algerian tourists visit Tunisia each year, generating revenues ranging from 288 to 432 million dinars.

Regarding the results of the tourism sector in general, the Minister noted that the results of Q1 of 2011 resulted in tourism revenues of 303.4 million dinars, down 43% compared with the same period of 2010.

Overnight stays in tourist establishments fell by 56.9%, i.e. a total of 1.858,662 overnights for the first quarter of 2011 against 4.316,075 nights between January 1 and March 31, 2010. For this same period, border arrivals declined by 44.1%, from 1.098,331 in 2010 to 614,071 in 2011. Also according to the Minister, markets most hit, include Germany with -71%, UK -57%, France – 50.9% and Italy -45.7%.

For the Maghreb market, it lost 364,187 tourists or -56%: Libya -64% and Algeria -37.6%. It should be noted, however, that the first quarter does not represent traditionally more than 12% of overnight stays and 16% of non-residents’ arrivals.

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