In Tunisia, the results of the tourist season remain correct with 4.1 million visitors this summer, but very far from the pre-pandemic numbers. In 2019, almost 9 million tourists came to the country. This year, with the absence of the Russian and Ukrainian markets, and a very timid recovery of Algerian tourism, new trends are emerging: the diaspora of Tunisians from abroad, who have returned massively to the country, the timid recovery of the European market and boosted local tourism despite the economic crisis the country is going through.
From our correspondent in Tunis,
At Hotel La Badira, luxury is not in crisis this summer. The price for a room in high season starts at 300 euros per night. Located in the region of Hammamet 60 kilometers from Tunis, the establishment was full during the summer period. The owner, Mouna Ben Halima, qualifies this recovery: “The season went very, very well. We even had peaks that exceeded the level of 2019, both in number and in numbers. Now I think that my case is not completely representative of the Tunisian hotel industry because many hotels that worked with the Russian market or the Algerian market did not have this return of customers, so what has taken over are really the classic traditional markets that have come to Tunisia for 50 years, which are the European markets.
Despite the opening of the borders on July 15 to Algeria, only 60,000 tourists came from the neighboring country, against the 1 million expected by professionals, due to excessive prices and the requirement for expensive PCR tests. Local tourism has compensated for this lack: “We’ve always had the local market, it’s always been our security cushion since opening, since before Covid and before the attacks.”
In the seaside resort of Kelibia, in Cap-Bon, the economic crisis is felt in the budgets of vacationers with more modest incomes than La Badira’s customers. Walid Sammoud sells beach items on the high street: “People are really tired financially, they are tightening their belts and want to buy cheap items instead, especially since our prices have also increased.”
Tunisians who use the city’s beautiful beaches in the summer prefer to rent a house, which is cheaper than a hotel. Ramzi, 55, rents apartments every week: “Here the prices are more accessible, it allows people with a small budget to enjoy the sea and get away from it all, regardless of their social status.”
Fahem Haj Mabrouk, 45, a civil servant, is from Menzel Temime, 20 minutes from Kelibia. He comes to swim there every summer with his family: “Tunisians are under pressure, many struggle to make ends meet and spend their free time. Finally, the beach is all that is still free. You can bring your umbrella and your picnic, swim and have fun for free.”
Despite this growing local tourism, the model of mass tourism in Tunisia is withering more and more. Almost 350 hotel units have gone bankrupt in the past four years.