Destinations Africa

So who’s lying about Tunisia’s tourism numbers? You decide


Feb 07, 2013 3:17 am

Skift Take

So who’s right? Who’s going to tell the truth on the numbers and who’s accountable for it?

— Rafat Ali

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by Rafat Ali

The Great Mosque of Kairouan in Tunisia, usually a very important site of religious and historical tourism in the country. by Rafat Ali

Tunisia, in the throes of post-revolution turmoil, has been going through a very tough recovery in the tourism sector, usually a big financial engine for the otherwise impoverished larger economy. Just today came the disturbing news that the leader of an opposition movement was assassinated, and that led to an additional round of unrest and protests and potential violence in the gateway city and capital of Tunis and beyond.

So when the leaders of Tunisian tourism go out in public forums proclaiming that the tourism sector is recovering well, and tout rosy 2012 numbers that seem to fly in face of every other report about political unrest and media coverage of a dead tourism sector, you have to wonder: What’s the real story here? In an economy where everything else is in play, could the numbers be cooked and inflated?

Presenting to you two contradictory pieces of video from within last week.

The first one is a rather tame interview with Ammar Habib, Director General of National Tourism Office in Tunisia. Though he acknowledged tourism’s deep decline right after the revolution two years ago, everything else was a whitewash from there without any critical questioning from the UNWTO moderator. His biggest claim is that by end of 2012 the difference between pre-revolution tourism income and the present is only about 10 percent drop. Which is a fantastical number if only it could be true.

The second one is a report from the BBC about the struggling tourism sector. It looks at completely empty beaches in the most touristy of islands, Djerba, where hordes of British and European tourists use to swoop in every holiday season thanks to low easyJet fares.

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