Could Tunisia be the next big travel destination?
The social and political freedoms Tunisians gained after the three-year-old ouster of a longtime dictator were worth the economic struggles, they say. Now, Tunisians are ready to welcome travelers back to their country.
“Tunisia is ready to bring tourism back,” says Lasaad Essid, 54, hammering designs into a decorative plate. “And we’ll even exceed what we used to achieve, seeing even more tourists than before the revolution.”
With a vast coastline along the Mediterranean Sea, Tunisia is celebrated for its beach resorts, ancient ruins and sprawling desert. UNESCO praises Dougga, an expansive site in the northern part of the country, as North Africa’s best-preserved Africo-Roman town that shows what daily life was like for those who lived there in antiquity.
In January,?Cond? Nast Traveler?called Tunisia the next big travel destination, celebrating the country for its optimistic atmosphere and open-mindedness. Society’s tolerance for diversity in the majority Muslim country not only helped propel the country on a path toward full democracy over the last three years but also allows for a vibrant nightlife where booze flows freely and music keeps partygoers out through the morning’s early hours.
Tunisia’s tourism minister Amel Karboul says the country could see a record 7 million tourists visiting this year.
“I tell Western tourists, come to Tunisia, the first democracy in the Arab world, to share this historic moment and support a democratic transition and also enjoy its sun, beaches, desert and culture,” Karboul recently told Reuters.
The tourism industry declined with the start of the Jasmine Revolution, which kicked off in late 2010 and ousted longtime leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. While the sector has since improved, it has yet to fully recover.
Many believe increasing political stability will bolster the industry, which employs 400,000 people, industry experts say, and accounts for 7.5% of gross domestic product. The country adopted a new and progressive constitution earlier this year and an Islamist-led government stepped down to make way for a caretaker cabinet. Elections expected to begin this fall will complete a democratic transition.
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Source: Sarah Lynch (2014). Could Tunisia be the next big travel destination?, USA Today http://www.usatoday.com/story/dispatches/2014/04/22/tunisia-tourism/7086801/ published Apr 22, 2014. Viewed Apr 23, 2014.