Equipped with an incredible, ever-developing tourism product, fascinating culture and heritage, and stunning surroundings, Tunisia is once again enchanting a global audience with its irresistible charm. By Tatiana Tsierkezou.
Things are really looking up for Tunisia’s tourism industry. Last year, the country welcomed an impressive 8,299,137 tourists from around the world, representing a healthy 18 per cent jump on the previous year. These visitors brought forth 27,070,302 overnight stays in hotels – a 23 per cent rise on 2017. According to the newly appointed tourism minister, René Trabelsi, Tunisia’s objective is to hit the nine million visitor mark this year.
Although the frequency of European tourists has decreased, according to statistics, Tunisia has been opening its arms to new markets that are beginning to show a keen interest in visiting the destination.
Speaking to TTG about this exclusively was CEO, Barclay’s Group Travel, Moufida Ameur, who said: “If we take a look back at the last year, the Libyan market was our source of success, since we worked a lot with the oil companies that brought us myriad customers in the business field, such as VIP clients and businessmen.”
Ameur added that besides the Libyan market, the Asian market proved fruitful for the destination management company in 2018, more specifically Taiwan, Malaysia and Thailand.
“For this year, our focus is on the German and Russian markets mainly, and we’re willing to visit Russia in order to participate in the MITT exhibition. We will of course be present at ITB Berlin,” she explained.
Europe has been and always will be fundamental to Tunisia’s tourism industry, and despite the decline in tourism numbers from that region, the country is determined to rekindle its relationship with this special market.
Since his appointment, Trabelsi has highlighted the importance of a new strategy to once again reach out to Europe, which would entail investment in culture, sports and business infrastructure and facilities, as well as a focus on Tunisia’s natural assets, such as the Sahara Desert.
On this subject, Ameur said: “Our strategy for 2019 is to focus on attracting European markets back, such as France, Germany and Italy, because we lost a lot of our European clients. We will work on promoting the incentive business to get back our image and recuperate their trust.”
Tunisia has encountered its fair share of stumbling blocks in recent years, but the country has risen from the ashes stronger and more determined than ever before to return to its former glory.
Commenting on the country’s perseverance, Ameur told TTG: “It is true that Tunisia witnessed some issues during the last three years due to terrorist attacks, but it didn’t take a long time to face these obstacles because the recovery was made immediately.
“We notice that the number of tourists is growing from one year to another because they have started trusting that the situation is pretty healthy and the country is completely safe and secure. Especially in touristic areas, there is huge security and control from the Tunisian police force to make sure our guests feel comfortable enough to fully enjoy their trip,” she added.
Ameur explained that the election of Trabelsi, the new Minister of Tourism, was a good move by the Tunisian government. She firmly believes that the new leader and innovator will take the country’s tourism industry to greater heights. “This minister has already started working on new plans to promote Tunisia all over the world,” she opined.
Also sharing his opinion on the state of Tunisia’s tourism industry was general manager, Mövenpick Hotel du Lac Tunis, Nicolas Pezout: “In 2018, tourist numbers to Tunisia hit a record high, fully reversing the damage inflicted on the sector in 2015. Investors continue to consider the destination as the pefect place to set up their businesses, and so do many prestigious international hospitality companies. This new capacity in Tunis, as well as recognised international brands, will most likely drive the market up towards both higher standards and average rates. Plus, a low local currency rate benefits foreign travellers.”
Granting insight into Tunis’ competitive hospitality industry, Pezout explained that properties are split across three main districts: Downtown Tunis, Les Berges du Lac and Les Côtes de Carthage/Gammarth.
“Whilst most of Tunisia’s hospitality industry is focused on seaside, resort-style properties located in Hammamet, Sousse-Monastir, Mahdia and on Djerba island, the industry in Greater Tunis is business-MICE oriented, despite some properties in the Côtes de Carthage having beach access and leisure facilities,” he noted. “During this current year, the most important and likely source of business for the hotels of greater Tunis will be the local corporate, government, embassies and business travellers.”
And with MICE business ever growing, Mövenpick Hotel du Lac Tunis, which opened last year, is eager to capitalise on this fruitful segment.
Pezout said: “Demand for business and MICE is maintained and hotels in Tunis have experienced a robust growth from government, multinational organisations, NGOs and international corporations. Based on our opening experience, the outlook for 2019 is very positive. We are expecting a greater number of national and international events (investment forums, conferences etc.) that will require our facilities. The focus for 2019 is positioning the hotel as the perfect place for milestone moments.”
Meanwhile, highlighting how Tunisia is the perfect option for MICE travellers, Ameur of Barclay’s Group Travel said: “Tunisia’s tourist appeal, its rich cultural and archaeological patrimony, eight sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list, its congress centres and facilities, in addition to its hotels, venues, thalassotherapy centres and golf courses, have made it a choice destination for incentives and congresses alike.”
Concluding, she said: “It is obvious that Tunisia is improving its tourism industry, and we can see positive results in our economy because of this sector. The opening of luxury international hotel brands will participate in capturing more visitors for sure, while the introduction of new products will boost tourism activity in the country and achieve many objectives. It is clear that introducing several products has many advantages for the country.”
Tunisia is fully equipped to cater to the needs of both the business and the leisure traveller, and is at the ready to welcome each and every guest with incredible facilities, warmth and hospitality like no other, and a positive attitude.