Advise for Tunisia’s Tourism Ministry and Tourism Office…

Advise for Tunisia’s Tourism Ministry and Tourism Office…

Tunisia Tourists’ First Impressions?

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While authorities in the tourism ministry and the ONTT may temporary revel in the fact that Sousse and Hammamet hotels are full, the fall and winter seasons will be upon us soon.
Both before and since the Revolution, Tunisia’s tourism authorities have been talking about “cultural” and “alternative” tourism. For the most part, their lack of action showed these were only empty words. In fact, at a recent World Bank meeting about cultural tourism and a Bizerte conference on new business opportunities, tourism authorities showed up late, read their prepared speeches and left. These events would have been perfect opportunities for them to hear from people who have been investing time and money in alternative tourism projects, away from “sun & sea”… people who are actually putting their “money where their mouth is”.

Earlier this month, Toronto’s Globe & Mail had a cover page story in their travel section about travel to the island of Jerba. That could have been great news for Tunisia’s tourism industry! Unfortunately, the reporter’s first impressions were the same that most tourists see today…”garbage”!

“Alas, my first impressions were not positive…. the roads and fields of olive and date trees were covered in garbage, mostly blue plastic bags.”
Eric Reguly, The Globe & Mail. July 6, 2013

Instead of attending every tourism fair for which that they can get per diem stipends, or give speeches and then ignore the comments and initiatives of people truly trying to be creative in developing new tourism programs for Tunisia, government authorities should start a campaign to clean up Tunisia’s tourism sites. Sorry to say, that “qabla al thawra” (before the Revolution), visitors would often comment on how clean Tunisia was. “Ba’ada al thawra” (after the Revolution), first impressions are made by the great heaps of trash and extensive graffiti.

If people in positions of authority in Tunisia truly want to help Tunisia’s tourism return to Tunisia at levels that go beyond the summer season, the cost of implementing a “CLEAN UP” campaign would be relatively inexpensive . Its implementation should not be that difficult. But I worry even about suggesting this…

At a December 2012 World Bank conference, the-then Minister of Tourism proudly announced that the Ministry “has been studying” improvements in the promotion of the sector and was in the process of implementing parts of a 2016 strategy that would include Tunisia having a tourism website. That was hardly reassuring!

In a country whose Revolution was mobilized by tech-savvy 20-something young people impatient with the former regime’s lack of common sense, the Ministry of Tourism and the ONTT should probably spend less time going to trade fairs and more time trying to listen to professionals who have already been investing time and money in efforts aimed at improving Tunisia’s tourism image. That’s a fact that no one in Tunisia should need to spend too much time studying.

Jerry Sorkin
Founder & President