Pandemic has devastating impact on Tunisian tourism

“There has been a drop in tourism activities of 60 percent, and we could reach 70 percent by the end of 2020,” Tourism Minister Habib Ammar said.

Sunday 27/09/2020
A seascape in La Marsa, on the outskirts of the capital Tunis, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (AFP)
A seascape in La Marsa, on the outskirts of the capital Tunis, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (AFP)

TUNIS--Tunisia’s tourism sector has nearly collapsed, officials warned Saturday, with earnings plunging 60 percent and swathes of hotels at risk of closing permanently.

The sector, a major employer that accounts for 14 percent of the North African nation’s GDP, has been hit hard by restrictions imposed to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The lifting of international travel last June has not helped the tourism sector but has instead further compounded the public health crisis, experts say.

“There has been a drop in tourism activities of 60 percent, and we could reach 70 percent by the end of 2020,” Tourism Minister Habib Ammar told reporters.

Tunisia’s income from tourism this year has totalled just 1.56 billion dinars ($563 million), officials statistics showed.

The number of tourists had increased 13.6% in 2019 to 9.5 million, a record level.

The sector’s revenues last year totalled about $2 billion.

Total bed nights — the number of nights visitors stayed in hotels — so far this year dropped by 79.5 percent.

“The current tourism situation is very bad — if not catastrophic,” said Khaled Fakhfakh, president of the Federation of Tunisian Hotels.

“Sixty percent of hotels have not opened this year and they risk not reopening, mainly because of Covid-19.”

Tunisia was already battling high unemployment before the start of the pandemic.

The small Mediterranean country, with a population of around 11 million, has recorded 207 deaths from the novel coronavirus out of 15,178 cases.

The COVID-19 toll i still the lowest among North African countries.