Mrs. Salma Al Loumi Al Raqiq, Tunisian Minister of Tourism and Traditional Industries confirmed that the number of tourists around the world will be doubled by the year 2030 according to the World Tourism Organization. Internationally, tourism contributes to 10% of the gross domestic product, and provides jobs for 200 million people. Mrs. Al-Raqiq indicated that tourism in Tunisia contributes to 12% to 14% of the GDP, and 400,000 people work in that sector. Tunisia receives 6 million to 7 million tourists per year.
Mrs. Al-Raqiq indicated that the number of tourists from the GCC in 2016 reached 14.274, including, 1155 tourists from the UAE, marking a 1.3% increase compared to 2015. It is also expected that the number of GCC tourists, particularly from the UAE, will increase in 2017, as the number of flights between the UAE and Tunisia will be increased to ease the inflow of Emirati tourists to Tunisia.
Having become a powerful driving force for the economy in our contemporary world, what is your vision of the tourism sector as a source contributing to the national income for Tunisia and as a significant factor of human advancement and progress?
Historically speaking, Tunisia was one of the first countries to have relied on tourism as a strategic sector at a time when the number of rival countries were numbered. Today, tourism has become the most important sector, not only in Tunisia but in most countries around the world as well.
The number of tourists worldwide surpassed 1.2 billion tourists in 2015, and that figure will be doubled by the year 2030, according to the World Tourism Organization’s forecasts.
Tourism contributes to 10% of the world GDP, and is employing over 200 million people.
In Tunisia, tourism contributes to 12 % – 14 % of the GDP and employees nearly 400,000 people, and receives nearly 6 to 7 million tourists a year.
It has been proved that tourism has its direct reflections on other sectors, meaning that if tourism declines, other sectors will decline as well, and vice versa.
Given that heritage and cultural tourism has special significance for the Tunisian people, how does this reflect on the tourist events and activities that you offer to the tourists?
Tunisia is distinguished by its rich cultural heritage that dates 3,000 years back, thanks to the various civilizations established or passed through its land, starting from the Carthaginois Empire and the Roman Empire up till the Arab Islamic Civilization. In fact, all of these civilizations have left behind an exceptional rich heritage that we are trying to revive to be used as a tourist product.
In Tunisia, there are various tourist attractions that link together archeological sites in different areas across the country, something we are trying to revive.
Tunisia is also distinguished by its set of cultural festivals, most prominently the International Festival of Carthage, the Tabarka Jazz Festival, International Festival of the Sahara in Douz, Kebili and Douzr, which all manifest our forefathers’ heritage as well as our deep roots. In fact, all these festivals have become attractions for European and Arab tourists.
Tunisia, being among the world’s top destinations for medical tourism; what are your plans for boosting medical tourism in Tunisia?
Tunisia is considered among the world’s top destinations for medical tourism, as Tunisia ranks second to France as an international medical tourism destination thanks to the government’s efforts in this domain as well to the country’s infrastructure i.e. recreational centers and mineral bathes in Jendouba, Zaghwan, Qurbus , and, Gabès. In fact, all these destinations have a great remedial value, and the government is taking the necessary procedures to protect and maintain them to the best interest of visitors from all social classes.
In light of the fact that participation in various Arab and international events and fairs has become essential to promoting tourism for any country, what is your plans in this regard for this year?
For years, Tunisia has been accustomed to participating in tourist fairs organized by international tourist markets through its own pavilions. Such fairs and exhibitions offer great opportunities to tourist agents, investors and media outlets to make the Tunisian tourism known, shed more light on the investment opportunities there and discuss means and ways of promoting tourist inflows to Tunisia.
As for participation in the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai for this year, we have changed our strategy this time. Instead of having our own pavilion, we sent a delegation from the Tunisian Ministry of Tourism and Traditional Industries to meet with travel agents, investors and representatives of media outlets.
Moreover, meeting will also be held with Emirati political figures to discuss means and ways of cementing relations between the two fraternal countries, Tunisia and the UAE, and boosting the influx of tourists in both directions.
What is your vision of the media importance in general, and the press, television and online press in particular, and how can this help promote the tourism sector?
Media outlets are considered a significant tool for promoting tourist destinations in general. Thus, all tourist countries have allocated large budgets for tourism promotion in different media outlets.
Online media has become a guide for tourists to different destinations thanks to the timely flow of information it offers about tourist destinations and booking mechanisms. Today, most tourists worldwide can do their bookings online.
Tunisia pays special attention to promoting its tourist destinations in various tourist markets online, and has worked towards ensuring that all the tourism requirements and the related services are readily available. You can find out more about this at www.discovertunisia.com .
You have said that the tourism sector in Tunisia will witness a boost by 2.5%, where does this figure stand at the end of the first quarter of 2017?
The tourism sector in Tunisia in 2017 will witness a season of restoring confidence and vigor. To say so, we relied on a number of growing figures and the data of 2016 during which the tourism sector achieved a growth rate of 8% compared to the same rate in 2015, therefore, is the case with the first quarter of 2017 that witnessed a growth rate well above 30 %, compared to the first quarter of 2016.
According to indications, it is expected that the number of tourists in 2017 will be nearly 6.5 million tourists.
How do you estimate the inflows of Emirati and Gulf tourists in general to Tunisia, and has the number of Emirate tourists increased last year?
In 2016, the number of tourists from the Gulf states was 14274 tourists. Of this number, 1155 were from the UAE, with an increase of 1.3 % compared to 2015. We hope that the number of Gulf tourists,
in general, and the Emirati tourists in particular, will rise in 2017 in view of the business tours we made to various Gulf markets such as Oman, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Qatar which I will visit in the next few days.
How many flights take off from the UAE to Tunisia?
In fact, the number of flights now is not high, and so we are working to increase it to enable Emirati tourists to visit Tunisia. We hope the number will increase this year and in the coming years.
In the end, what would you like to say to the Emirati tourists?
At first, I would like to stress the deeply rooted ties between Tunisia and the UAE. I would also like to seize the opportunity to reassure our brothers in the UAE that the security and social situation in Tunisia is remarkably improving and is quite promising. I would also like to assure you that the government has taken all necessary procedures to ensure the safety of our dear guests. I would also like to assure that Tunisia is rich in tourist sites such as beach, cultural, religious, environmental, medical, desert, marketing and hunting tourism.
Tunisia is also distinguished by its unique cuisine that suits the tastes of Arab tourists in general and Emirati tourists in particular.
Therefore, we invite all our Emirati brothers to visit Green Tunisia and meet its hospitable people.