The tourism sector in Tunisia seems to be taking a new option for the future. This year 2017 is positive in that it has been marked by an improvement that some qualify as a recovery, others an upturn that needs to further stay in the long term.
The fact is that the indicators are starting to go green without having to return to the performance of 2010, a benchmark year that saw 6.9 million foreign tourists arrive in Tunisia.
Professionals in the sector hope that this will be done in 2018 as long as the current momentum keeps its course, particularly in terms of security where Tunisia is credited with significant progress but not yet relevant enough to allow a massive return.
This is evidenced by the procrastination of the British tour operators who continue to test waters before definitively cutting the Gordian knot.
This is singularly the case of TUI whose boss has just admitted that he is in no hurry to return to Tunisia. It will not be this winter, or next summer, while leaving the door open for the winter of 2018, pending the decision of its competitors including Thomas Cook who has launched a program for this purpose.
He has, moreover, somehow showered hopes by quoting Google’s statistics to evaluate the demand for vacations on Tunisia to find that “we have certainly not seen a huge increase in inquiries about Tunisia, whether in our points of sale or online. Placing himself in a “wait and see” situation, he sent TUI back to Tunisia “more likely towards the end of next year”.
The rise of new markets
Notwithstanding these reservations, which we hope will not detract from the programs of the other British TOs, Tunisia, in view of the security and promotional efforts that it has not stopped making, is in a position to claim a status which reassures and that it is worth to bring back an additional flow not only coming from its traditional markets but also from new markets like that of China and Russia.
That’s what was estimated by the Oxford Business Group, a leader in economic publication in emerging markets which reported “a rapid growth of new markets, synonymous with a new source of revenue, the first determinant of recovery.”
In fact, arrivals from Russia have risen considerably, having increased by almost nine times between 2015 and last year, from 46,279 to 451,432.
This increase is mainly due to the improvement bilateral relations between the two countries and the instability in the traditional holiday destinations of Russians such as Egypt and Turkey.
Chinese tourism also jumped, with 7,400 arrivals last year, an increase of 93.6% over 2015. And it is hoped that these figures will increase this year and the years to come following the visa waiver for Chinese nationals decided in February and the designation of Tunisia as “Best African Tourism Destination 2017” by the Shanghai World Travel Fair.
A change of strategy
Above all, says OBG, developments in the Tunisian tourism sector have led to a change of strategy, professionals in the sector moving towards a more upscale offer and holidays focused on Tunisian heritage.
The announcement of the opening by the international hotel chain Four Seasons of a hotel in Tunis at the end of 2017 is part of this goal of creating a growing offer of luxury tourism in the country and shows that the country is looking to move away from the mass tourism that has characterized the sector in the past.
Stakeholders in the sector express the hope that the development of this type of tourism infrastructure as well as attractions such as high-end leisure activities and VAT-refunded shopping will attract more visitors from Gulf.
In addition to the high-end offer, efforts have been made to develop attractions related to Tunisian cultural heritage.
If tourism is restarting, the authorities note, however, that an overwhelming majority of the country’s cultural heritage attractions remain empty, with only 60 of the country’s 3,000 historic sites open to the public.
The open sites deplore a lack of advertising, infrastructure and transport possibilities.
Authorities are looking for ways to take advantage of the potential of heritage-related tourism, with the expected increase in the number of Chinese visitors to the country, concludes OBG.