DESERT OA­SIS

South­ern Tu­nisia cel­e­brates peak sea­son for Chi­nese tourists

Global Times - Weekend - - TRAVEL - Xin­hua

Ahmed Ben Salem, a 19-yearold Tunisian boy, runs the camel-ride busi­ness in Star Wars film lo­ca­tion Mos Espa, lo­cated in the Sa­hara desert in Tozeur re­gion in south­ern Tu­nisia.

“There were Chi­nese tourist groups here ev­ery day in De­cem­ber,” said Salem, adding that “they pre­fer to sit on the nearby sand dunes in the morn­ing, watch­ing ching the sun­rise in the desert ert and they told me it t feels like be­ing on n an­other planet.”

“We wel­come more Chi­nese tourists for vis­its, which can help pro­mote the lo­cal economy, and pro­vide more busi­ness for r us,” Salem said.

Ly­ing in the north rth point of the African con­ti­nent, with a his­tory of over 3,000 years, Tu­nisia bor­ders the Sa­hara desert and Mediter­ranean sea, renowned for its rich tourism re­sources.

Houcine Melki, a 27-year-old lo­cal tour guide in Tamerza, a moun­tain oa­sis near Sa­hara desert, told the Xin­hua News Agency that win­ter is the peak pe tourism sea­son f for south­ern Tu­nisia, which pro­vides var­i­ous land­scapes, in­clud­ing desert, o oases, moun­tains an and canyons. As an in­creas­ingly popu pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for Chines Chi­nese tourists, Tu­nisia had at­tracte at­tracted nearly 22,000 Chi­nese tourists by Oc­to­ber, 2018, a 43 per­cent year-on-year growth, ac­cord­ing to the Tunisian gov­ern­ment. In 2017, Tu­nisia be­gan to of­fer visa-free en­try for Chi­nese tourists and the num­ber of Chi­nese tourists rock­eted to around 20,000 last year, 12,000 more than in 2016. China has be­come one of Tu­nisia’s fastest-grow­ing tourism mar­kets. In a guest­house in Tamezret, a tra­di­tional Ber­ber vil­lage in Gabes

re­gion in south­ern Tu­nisia, three rooms in lo­cal troglodyte style mainly fo­cus on in­di­vid­ual tourism. The Bel­gium man­ager Pa­trick Bourseaux has run this guest­house with his wife since 2014.

“Chi­nese now ac­count for over 40 per­cent of in­ter­na­tional tourists. Tu­nisia’s visa-free pol­icy en­cour­ages more in­di­vid­ual Chi­nese tourists here,” said Bourseaux.

“Al­though they are from a com­pletely dif­fer­ent part of the world, Chi­nese tourists are not afraid to tour and ex­plore this North African coun­try by them­selves,” he added.

“We have re­ceived tourists al­most world­wide, but Chi­nese tourists showed the most in­ter­est in lo­cal cul­ture,” said Bourseaux, adding that “they pre­pare in­cred­i­bly well be­fore their travel, al­ready re­search­ing a lot of in­for­ma­tion.”

Bourseaux also sug­gested that the gov­ern­ment im­prove the lo­cal in­fra­struc­ture, es­pe­cially pub­lic trans­porta­tion, to pro­vide bet­ter ser­vice.

Ac­cord­ing to the Tunisian Min­istry of Tourism and Hand­i­crafts, Tu­nisia at­taches great im­por­tance to the Chi­nese mar­ket, and en­deav­ors to make Chi­nese tourists’ jour­neys in Tu­nisia more con­ve­nient and en­joy­able.

Chi­nese Am­bas­sador to Tu­nisia Wang Wen­bin pointed out that bi­lat­eral tourism col­lab­o­ra­tion has been pro­moted in re­cent years, and tourism is among the pri­or­i­tized co­op­er­a­tion sec­tors be­tween China and Tu­nisia.

Tunisian Am­bas­sador to China Dhia Khaled said, “Tu­nisia is ca­pa­ble of and is will­ing to have more Chi­nese tourists. Tu­nisia val­ues co­op­er­a­tion with China in tourism and looks for­ward to a higher level of co­op­er­a­tion.”

Karim Jat­laoui, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the Tunisian Na­tional Tourism Of­fice Bei­jing Bureau, ex­pected Chi­nese tourists to in­crease to 50,000 by 2020.

Tu­nisia has wit­nessed a slump in its tourism since 2015 when three ma­jor ter­ror­ist at­tacks claimed the lives of more than 70 peo­ple, mostly for­eign tourists and se­cu­rity forces.

Ac­count­ing for about 8 per­cent of the coun­try’s GDP, the tourism sec­tor started to re­vive in 2017.

Pho­tos: IC

The Star Wars set at Mos Espa in Tu­nisia on May 29, 2017

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