Tunisian Tourism Benefits From Egyptian Strife

Tunisian Tourism Benefits From Egyptian Strife

Tunisia is enjoying record-breaking tourism as vacationers, whose travel plans were spoiled by Egyptian unrest, switch to Plan B.

The Tunisian revolution, which ousted the dictator Ben Ali in early 2011, gave greater liberty to Tunisians but it also scared off tourists, according to a report in IPSNews. However, visitors have returned to Tunisia and ongoing turmoil in Egypt is helping.

After Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was overthrown, bookings taken in July and August for travel in Egypt fell by 57 percent compared to the previous year, according to research by the analyst group Gfk, Skift.com reports.

Through the end of June, winter travel sales had risen by 4 percent for Egypt and summer sales were up seven percent. Winter bookings in Egypt are now down 20 percent, the report said.

Meanwhile, Tunisia welcomed a record-breaking 287,541 British visitors between January and August this year – 22.5 percent more than its record in 2010, according to the Tunisian National Tourist Office.

British vacationers visiting Tunisia in August also rose by almost 25 percent, peaking at 55,329 visitors.

Tourism figures in Tunisia for 2013 seem to paint a different picture compared to 2012, when tourists were slow to return to the country a year after the Arab Spring, despite prices being low and conditions in the country remaining calm.

Tourism as vital to the Tunisian economy, which can’t depend on oil, unlike neighboring Libya, said Atef Bouhlel, who ran spas in two hotels in but left the tourism industry in 2012.

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The Tunisian National Tourism Office reported that in 2010 the industry generated $2.1 billion but in 2011, the year of the revolution, visitor numbers dropped by 30 percent from nearly seven million tourists to less than five million. By mid-August of 2013, close to four million tourists had visited, generating almost $1.1 billion.

“Tour operators have cancelled flights to Egypt until October. Tourists who booked to go there are being offered a refund or an alternative holiday in another destination such as Tunisia,” said Snene Mohamed Anas with Tunisie Voyages, a travel agency, according to IPSNews.

Making tourists feel safe is of primary concern in Tunisia. “On our Sahara excursions we send a car ahead of the bus to make sure there are no problems on the road,” Anas said. These strategies seem to be working to allay the fears of tourists.