“Tunisian tourism is seen today as a success story”, said Taleb Rifai the Secretary General of the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) During a press conference in Tunis, adding that in these times of crisis Mediterranean, Arab and African destinations can be successful in 2009 if they open up their skies by adhering to the “Open Sky” agreement, diversify their products and set up aggressive promotional campaigns.
Rifai pointed out that Mediterranean, Arab and African destinations are also likely to take advantage of the change in the tourist map within the next years, and tap into the Chinese market for instance, which by 2012 should comprise some 90 million tourists.
Tunisia, said Rifai, is called upon to boost its promotional campaigns as a favorite southern Mediterranean destination, adding that southern Mediterranean destinations must exert more efforts to preserve their market shares, especially in the context of the current global economic downturn.
Rifai who was on a work visit to Tunisia a few months following his election at the Head of the WTO (2010-2013) hailed Tunisia’s action to promote tourism within the WTO, saying that “Tunisian tourism is seen today as a success story.”
In spite of the drop in demand on the world scale and in Europe in particular, the WTO Secretary said there will be no still stand in terms of tourist flow. Projections are tabling on a growth of between 1 and 2% in North Africa, as against a world growth situated between 0 to -3% in 2009, he said.
The decrease in tourist demand will continue in 2009 and perhaps through 2010 said Rifai who noted that in 2008, the WTO recorded 924 million tourists throughout the world, a record number, he said.
Evoking the H1N1 flu pandemic, the WTO official dismissed allegations that travels are conducive to the propagation of the virus, remarking that the WTO is in close contact with the World Health Organisation (WHO) which attributes the propagation of the virus to poor health conditions and lack of sanitation in urban and rural centres.
Rifai also said that the WTO will promote southern Mediterranean destinations so as to favour a greater balance in tourist receipts, adding that Africa’s share (5%) and the MENA region (6%) were still well below their real potential.