Tunisian tourism business is in the fog regarding the prospects for 2009, and the press conference, held Tuesday, by Tourism Minister Khelil Lajimi, provided nothing explanatory about tourist activity forecasts involving, moreover those of the global tourism in general.
Nevertheless, Tunisia starts this year being crowned with a set of records achieved in 2008, which represents an exceptional vintage since it combined performances despite a global crisis whose heralding signs appeared at the beginning of 2008 second term.
The Minister said he was optimistic as to the sector’s capacity to weather the consequences of the world economic crisis, despite the “lack of visibility for the year 2009 and late bookings by European travellers.”
The explanation he provided in this respect is as follows: TO (tour operators) have so far no visibility that enables them to make projections and they are experiencing an obvious delay in terms of booking. European tourists who usually schedule their vacation long before taking it , using the “early booking” are facing crisis, forcing them to postpone their booking . So, they are searching for deals that match their budget also battered by the economic and financial turmoil In doing so, the tourist keeps waiting , and in his wake the TO and hence destination countries including Tunisia.
He pointed out that in addition to the setting up of a monitoring unit in each of the representations abroad of the Tunisian tourist board (ONTT), the ministry will continue the intensive promotion of tourism, as well as improving its quality and services.
The upgrading of hotels will also be pursued he said, targeting an additional 200 hotels. He noted that some 18 hotels were closed in 2008 for their non conformity with hygiene and quality standards.
The Minister also said that 2008 had been a record year for the country’s tourist industry, as shown by the record number of tourists who visited the country (7 million). A growth of 4, 2% which yielded 1,876 million Euros of benefits, he said.
The Minister who highlighted recent measures taken by a cabinet meeting chaired by President Ben Ali, such as the strengthening of international and internal air transportation, the setting up of golf courses currently underway and the promotion of major international festivals and archaeological circuits, also said the sector will train an 5000 additional people including some 2500 university graduates.