Tunisia, the only “success story” of the Arab Spring, is going through a perilous phase of its post-revolution life.
The tourism industry in this tiny and gorgeous country tucked away in one corner of the African continent had just started to recover after many years, with the packaged European — primarily British — tourists coming back to its oceanside resorts in droves again. But the two big deadly attacks over this summer of 2015 have left the country reeling, and European tourists are deserting the country in huge numbers, for good reason.
As an AP story we carried over the weekend said: “Europeans have abandoned this North African country, leaving just local Tunisian beach-goers and visiting Algerians. But they will be gone by month’s end, and then the real pain for the country’s all-important tourism industry will begin.”
Last week the BBC did a very nuanced radio documentary on the plight of Tunisian tourism over the last two months, and what lies ahead. Even if you are not interested in Tunisia, it is well worth a listen to understand how geopolitics is deeply intertwined with travel, and why that matters to everyone including the locals.
The gun attack on the beach resort of Sousse that killed 38 tourists, deterred many holiday-makers from travelling to Tunisia. But not journalist, Frances Stonor Saunders. She packed her bags, no flak jacket in sight, and set off for an all-inclusive package deal to Hammamet, a nearby seaside resort. What did she find? As well as deserted beaches and eerily empty hotels, Frances has a chance meeting with a man who helped foil a previous terror attack on a popular tourist site; and she finds out why Tunisians are refusing to go to local hotels, despite desperate pleas from hotel owners.
Click on the image below to listen: