Tourism is the engine of economic and social development. However, to ensure its durability “Tunisia today needs security and peace,” said Wahid Ibrahim, former CEO of the Tunisian National Tourism Board (ONTT) in an interview with TAP news agency.
Summer and late autumn would be saved once the entire country is secure and a return to normal is ensured, “says Mr. Ibrahim.
The lifting of restrictions on Tunisia, decided by several countries (Britain, France, Germany, Switzerland ..) does, in fact, only concern coastal regions while for all tourists “safety
must be total and not regionalized. ” Indeed, “bookings cannot be boosted and customers reassured if potential signs of stability and security are not made clear, said Mr. Ibrahim.
On the regional level, Mr. Ibrahim stressed the need to pay due attention to development of regional tourism in Tunisia, which would attract a clientele of higher cultural and material level.
To do this, it is necessary to detect “pockets of tourism poverty “which do not lack assets, whether environmental or cultural that can be valued like El Haouaria, Korbous (Cap Bon) and Sejnane (Governorate of Bizerte). “Tourism is also a fantastic regional development tool “as long as planners integrate into the regional tourism all ingredients specific to the region, particularly ecological and cultural.
In this context, studies on ways and prospects for tourism development of regions, such as Sidi Bouzid, Kasserine, El Kef and Kairouan designed to enhance the natural and archaeological sites in these areas, like Sbeitla Chemtou and Bulla Regia, were carried out, but remained untapped.
These same studies have identified sites where small projects will be made (small inns guest houses, boutique hotels, typical restaurants ….) by and for the benefit of young people of the afore-mentioned regions, trained in the field of tourism, said Ibrahim. Regional tourism would be defined in networks (Implementation of projects that complement each others) for offseason tourists eager to discover the deep regions of
Tunisia,”the former head of ONTT argued.
Mr. Ibrahim proposes, in this regard, to hold a seminar to be organized in Kasserine and Sidi Bouzid through coordination between all departments concerned (Culture, Interior, Crafts …). Tourism has long exploited the waterfront and “Tunisia offered to tourists its climate and its beach “said Ibrahim. But in recent years the customer has become more demanding and has incorporated ecological and cultural expectations other than accommodation which has became “an accessory”.
This “one design” (seaside) has generated seasonality, price slashing, heavy investments for few months, inadequate training, precarious employment, lack of motivation of employees who fear dismissal, a passive marketing through the TO, construction of hotels in single file over the coastline, causing sea erosion ….
Development plans for tourist areas that have opted for mass tourism and caused the separation between the country and its waterfront, are no longer appropriate, Mr. Ibrahim said.
These plans must now be shifted from the seafront and turn their back to it to be integrated into urban centers and fabric, because “nothing is better that the animation generated spontaneously by the people.”
As such, as designed by relatives and family of the deposed president, development plans of tourist areas such as Lella Hadhria, Lella H’lima and Lella Mariem, to be constructed or in progress in the tourist area of Djerba-Zarzis, could be reviewed.
The Revolution of January 14 came in time to make known to the rest of the world a country called Tunisia which has 3000 years of history and “has just written with little means a new chapter in the universal history of revolutions generating a capital of sympathy which no awareness campaign would have achieved, “said Mr. Ibrahim. We must therefore preserve this capital likely to attract new investment.
Finally, to ensure the revival of tourism, communication should no longer be advertising but rather direct and targeted. The point is target the media and partners in markets including TO and travel agents, without omitting social networks.
Presenting other forms to boost Tourism, the former CEO of ONTT suggested organizing the profession, involving professionals in reviving the sector and strengthening partnership between the authorities and professionals.
The tourism sector provides 300,000 direct jobs and 100,000 other indirect, i.e. 400,000 jobs accounting for 10 per cent of the workforce. It covers 60% of the trade balance deficit and its share in GDP is estimated at 6.5 pc.