Dubai- Masaader News
“Ready and Safe” is the slogan chosen by Tunisia for its tourism re-launch campaign. As the North African country readies to open its borders on June 27 and become one of the first nations in the world to formally sanction the return of activity in the vital sector, authorities are showing a lot of optimism and self-confidence
“We are eager to welcome tourists,” Tunisian Tourism Minister Mohamed Ali Toumi told The Arab Weekly in an exclusive interview.
As one of the major foundations of the national economy, the tourism sector constituted some 14.2% of Tunisia’s GDP in 2019. According to a KPMG study, Tunisian tourism generates around 100,000 direct jobs, 289,000 indirect jobs, 98,000 permanent jobs and 291,000 casual jobs. Around 9.4% of the working population in Tunisia derives its income from the tourism sector.
Since the coronavirus crisis, the country has been trying to control the damage and provide support to this vulnerable but vital sector. Toumi, appointed last June, had been active in travel and tourism for over twenty years. He served as the president of the Tunisian Federation of Travel Agencies (FTAV) from 2011 to 2018.
Tunisian authorities believe the country’s successful control of the pandemic makes a full-fledged reopening of the sector possible. According to the Tunisian Ministry of Health, no local contamination has been recorded for more than 20 days and about a third of Tunisian governorates are COVID-19-free, a feat that gives wings to the travel and tourism sector.
Praised by Toumi, the Tunisian government’s efforts to contain the fallout of the pandemic were essentially based on two key considerations: “preserving jobs and preparing businesses for recovery.”
Moreover, a unique and detailed health protocol has been developed with the aim of protecting both tourists and employees. “The main measures concern the occupancy rate which must not exceed 50%, the distancing in swimming pools and places of activity, the elimination of self-service in addition to continuous cleaning and disinfection starting with luggage at the airport,” he said.
The positive assessment by international organisations such as the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) on the precautionary measures taken by Tunisia could prompt authorities to reopen their international airspace earlier than planned.
However, the long-awaited revival of a sector that welcomed 9.4 million tourists in 2019 with a record revenues of 5.6 billion dinars ($1.98 billion) will take some time. “Accurate estimates of this year’s figures are not yet possible, but personally my ambition is to reach half of last year’s revenue,” Toumi said.
Toumi eyes new strategies to pull the sector out of its decades-old stagnation. But today, he is confident that the sector is ready for business again.
“We have done our job and now we are waiting to welcome you, your families and your friends in Tunisia within safety and security!” concluded Toumi with smile.