Dubai – Tunisia’s tourism revenues dropped 50 per cent from January to May following the revolution of January 14, a Tunisian government official has revealed.
Kamel Ben Hassine, consul-general for Dubai and the northern emirates. said that the tourism industry — the country’s second largest source of income — has declined sharply from the same period in 2010.
Raouf Al May, President of the Tunisian Business Council, added that there are no signs of recovery this summer either.
“This season has been destroyed, forget about it,” he said.
Tunisia receives 1.5 million Algerian visitors and 2 million Libyan tourists every year, but the war in Libya is causing these numbers to fall drastically, said Ben Hassine.
The tourism sector comprises 14 per cent of Tunisia’s GDP and employs about one million people in tourism and related businesses, added Al May.
“The tourism season has been missed, investment flows are slow-paced and this will cripple the economy for a long period,” said Najeeb Friji, Director of the UN Information Centre for the Gulf Countries, stressing the need for fund-raising and economic reform initiatives.
With the dust still settling from the revolution that ousted president Zine Al Abidine Bin Ali and the ongoing massacres in Libya at its borders, Tunisia presents a tough environment for investors.
“Investor confidence is badly shaken… Investors are looking for stability and infrastructure. There is no stability yet but there is potential.
“Investors from the region are on the sidelines and waiting. The question Middle East investors are asking is ‘should we go in now or wait’,” said Al May.
Opportunities will abound in Tunisia when the situation stabilises there and in Libya, he added.
“It creates more openings for investors: Natural resources in Libya, human resources in Tunisia and entry to the Egyptian market, which are very important for local investors,” he said. “Bold” investors were already in Tunisia during this period because they are in it for the long haul, said Friji.
Large UAE companies such as Emaar and Bukhatir Group were attracted to Tunisia, but withdrew before the revolution due to complications from corruption in the business environment there, said Al May. The UAE is Tunisia’s leading Gulf trade partner by volume, said Ben Hassine. The UAE imports Tunisian vegetables, dates, mechanical equipment and construction material, he said.
Last week, the Tunisian Business Council in co-ordination with the local Tunisian community organized a charity event to raise money for the Tunisian Red Crescent to treat thousands of war-wounded patients and refugees who fled to the Tunisian-Libyan border.