Could Future Tunisian Tourism Falter as Crisis Continues?

Tunisia has been known by many travelers as an exotic beach destination possessing a hint of cosmopolitanism, attracting many European tourists seeking a rather reasonable Mediterranean getaway. However, this sentiment could be changing following the recent events that shook Tunisia and many of its cities forcing many travelers to consider the safety and political climate of their chosen destination.

For over a decade, Tunisia enjoyed a booming tourism industry. The BBC reported tourism represented about 12% of hard currency receipts and provides employment for over 350,000 people in the nation. However, in response to the turbulent political events, many vacationers have been evacuated to safety on emergency flights. Thomas Cook, one of the largest U.K.-based travel operators, announced on Friday it will repatriate some 4,000 tourists to the U.K. from Tunisia. Cook does recommend that vacationers “curtail” their stay, but are not forced to do so. Thomas Cook has also announced today that they have taken the decision to cancel charter flights to Monastir on Wednesday, Jan. 19 and Sunday, Jan. 23.

The United States, U.K. and several other European countries have all issued travel warnings, proceeding Tunisia’s declared “state of emergency” on Jan. 14. The U.S. Department of State warned to defer “non-essential” travel to Tunisia until further notice. The U.S. Department of State also advised Americans still in Tunisia to “be off the streets between dusk and dawn.”

Despite numerous travel warnings used to defer tourists from traveling to Tunisia, many travel PR agencies have raced to shed a different light on Tunisia. Fox Kalomaski of Tourism Tunisia stated recently: "Tunisia is full of surprises, delights and the most amazing contrasts." James Brooke, managing director of Rooster, a U.K.-based travel PR firm, added: "It is outstanding value, it is short to medium haul and it has what we call the 'four pillars of tourism': history and archeology, spas, beaches and the Sahara."

Only time will tell if Tunisian tourism will take a lasting hit from this crisis, however, with a new administration on the horizon, some tour operators are confident that the process to reinstate Tunisian tourism will be a swift one.