As one of the early nuclei of the Arab Spring, Tunisia has been making international headlines for much of 2011.
Many have been positive, with the people of the North African country able to overthrow despotic ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, but this has come at a price.
International tourism has been devastated, with many, predominately wealthier European, visitors electing to take summer holidays elsewhere in the region.
However, officials in Tunisia are now beginning to fight back, with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) the latest international body to offers its support to the fledgling recovery.
UNWTO officials visited the country this week to sign an agreement which will see the international body provide Tunisia with up-to-date market intelligence on tourism movements and trends as well as guidance on tourism policy.
Local officials will also be trained on the latest marketing tools and strategies available to reposition Tunisia among the world’s leading destinations.
Finally, UNWTO will also asses the country’s tourism education and training needs, linking Tunisian tourism institutions with UNWTO certified universities around the world.
Mehdi Houas signs the agreement with UNWTO secretary-general, Taleb Rifai
Following the signing of the deal, Tunisian minister of tourism, Mehdi Houas, highlighted the importance of the support of the international community to Tunis and particularly to tourism in the country at this time.
“Tourism in Tunisia is fully operational and open for business and we need the support of the international community to communicate this reality.
“This agreement is an important step towards the reinforcement of tourism in Tunisia in key areas such as marketing, quality and human resource development.”
In 2010, Tunisia received nearly seven million international tourist arrivals, generating nearly US$3 billion in export revenues.
During the first three months of 2011, international tourist arrivals decreased by 44 per cent and receipts by 43 per cent.
UNWTO secretary-general, Taleb Rifai, said the partnership would contribute to help accelerate the return of international tourists to Tunisia in the short-term, where tourism represents nearly seven per cent of the country’s GDP and accounts for 450,000 jobs, and in the medium-term would support the improved competitiveness of the destination.
“International tourists are gradually returning to Tunisia,” said Rifai at the signing of the agreement.
“As they do so, UNWTO will be providing Tunisia with technical support and assistance to sustainably reinforce this tourism recovery, one of the country’s principal sources of income, jobs and development.”