March 7, 2019 / 2:41 PM / 4 months ago

Tunisia: we're starting to put tourism crisis behind us

A tourist poses for a picture in Sidi Bou Said, an attractive tourist destination near Tunis, Tunisia January 7, 2019. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

BERLIN (Reuters) - Tunisia’s tourism business is on the road to recovery and visitor numbers have started to head back towards their pre-crisis levels, the country’s tourism minister said on Thursday.

Tourism accounts for around 8 percent of Tunisia’s economy and employs 400,000 people, but has suffered years of turmoil following the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011 and two militant attacks on holidaymakers in 2015.

Revenues from tourism jumped to $1.36 billion in 2018 and a record 8.3 million visitors travelled to Tunisia from Algeria, Russia and other parts of Europe.

“2018 was a good year,” said Rene Trabelsi said in an interview. “We have started to put the crisis behind us,” adding that tourist arrivals for January and February this year were already better than in 2010, before the Arab Spring.

Major European tour operators started to return to Tunisia last year after three years of shunning the country after militants killed 39 tourists in an attack on a beach in Sousse and 21 people in a separate attack at the Bardo National Museum in the capital Tunis.

The number of foreign visitors rose almost 45 percent last year with arrivals from Germany up 52 percent. Tunisia expects tourist arrivals to reach 9 million for the first time in 2019.

Trabelsi said demand remained strong from Russian visitors who returned more quickly following the crisis, while European holidaymakers stayed away.

He said he was keen to lure back more British tourists through campaigns with tour operators. A delegation would also attend a travel show in London in April to promote the North African country as a safe destination, he said.

Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Jon Boyle

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