Tunisia is one of the world’s most interesting and mysterious tourism destinations, but the coronavirus pandemic has nearly wiped out business there. Streets usually filled with travelers from all over the world, now look like scenes from an apocalyptic movie because international flights are still not running despite the country’s good COVID-19 record. The country’s tourism ministry has announced support for businesses, but so far no overall plan has been set.
In Tunis, a seaside city normally crawling with curious visitors, shop owners stay closed or only open for an hour or so each day. There’s just not enough business, shopkeepers say. Most have already written off 2020 as a hopeless cause. Officials still hold out hope the season can be reclaimed.
The country has registered only 45 deaths from the COVID-19, and for the past few days there have not even been any new infections recorded. Tunisia is actually one of the most successful Mediterranean destinations at flattening the pandemic curve, but you cannot tell this by the visitor landscape.
Tunisia’s tourism ministry says the loss to the sector is in the neighborhood of $2 billion US, and that more than 400,000 jobs are at risk. Since March, the pandemic has ground the country’s tourism sector to a complete halt. Once thriving seaside resorts look abandoned, and the hoteliers are at a loss as to how they will remain afloat.
The Minister of Tourism and Handicrafts Mohamed Ali Toumi was quoted recently at the “From Berlin to Tunis: Tourism after COVID-19” webinar as saying:
“We must provide support measures for the benefit of the tourism sector which is among the sectors most affected by the crisis. For that purpose, a small cabinet meeting will be devoted to the examination of the necessary support measures over the next 48 hours”.
There is cause for hope, however. The tourism ministry is preparing protocols for facilities that reopen, with some planning to do so from June. According to the news from Tunis, regulators are about to roll out measures expected to restore trust and safety for travelers and locals alike. Hotels and resorts will offer fixed menus instead of the popular all-inclusive buffets travelers have grown accustomed to.
Tourism accounts for about 14 percent of Tunisia’s GDP, so the sector is vital for any hope of short term recovery for the country. The North Africa Journal reports local hotel sales manager Anis Souissi saying :
“Algeria has been seriously affected by the pandemic and reopening its borders is not envisaged in the short term.”
Meanwhile, this Carnegie Endowment report says Tunisia’s economic outlook in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak will further compound the country’s social and regional inequalities.
Top touristic attraction in Tunisia includes the seaside bliss of the amazing island town of Houmt Souk, legendary Carthage, the National Bardo Museum, the amazingly photogenic clifftop village of Sidi Bou Said, the fantastic Sahara Desert, fascinating Bulla Regia near Tabarka, and the incomparable beach at Hammamet, just to name a few.