The Tu­nisian ques­tion

DEADLY BLOW: As the North African coun­try reels from Isis’s ter­ror attack, Sarah Mar­shall re­ports on how the tourism trade is re­act­ing.

Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine - - Travel -

LTHOUGH not un­til the end of this year, the up­com­ing re­lease of the lat­est Star Wars film has al­ready been caus­ing a stir. Tu­nisia, where four of the early films were shot, was no doubt hop­ing to piggy back on the re­newed in­ter­est in Ge­orge Lu­cas’ cult epic.

But hopes for a tourism boom are rapidly ebbing away fol­low­ing the re­cent Isis attack on the Bardo Mu­seum in Tu­nis. Of the 23 peo­ple killed, 19 were tourists, and the episode clearly demon­strated that hol­i­day­mak­ers are now a tar­get for rad­i­cal groups.

A num­ber of cruise ships call into the Tu­nisian cap­i­tal, although many are now re­think­ing their routes. Both Costa Cruises and MSC, who lost guests in the attack, pulled out im­me­di­ately. Cruise Critic re­ports that Ha­pag-Lloyd Cruises, Star Clip­pers, AIDA and Hol­land Amer­ica have all fol­lowed suit. Other com­pa­nies due to visit Tu­nisia this year – P&O Cruises, Ocea­nia and Princess Cruises – are all mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion care­fully.

Re­ports sug­gest that hol­i­day­mak­ers were slowly re­gain­ing con­fi­dence in Tu­nisia fol­low­ing the 2011 over­throw of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali which sparked the Arab Spring. Travel as­so­ci­a­tion Abta said fig­ures for the Bri­tish mar­ket were up last year, with 424,000 peo­ple vis­it­ing.

But the fu­ture of tourism could now be in jeop­ardy. The For­eign Of­fice cur­rently warns of a “high threat from ter­ror­ism, in­clud­ing kid­nap­ping” but does not ad­vise against travel to Tu­nis. Pack­age tour com­pa­nies Thom­son and First Choice, who sell hol­i­days mainly to the coastal ar­eas, have tem­po­rar­ily suspended day tours to the cap­i­tal.

But while some peo­ple will no doubt steer clear of the des­ti­na­tion, many staunch sup­port­ers have vowed to plough on with hol­i­day plans and are show­ing their sol­i­dar­ity for Tu­nisia with so­cial me­dia cam­paigns. Thou­sands of peo­ple have posted on Instagram and Twit­ter with the hash­tag #JeSuisBardo. Lind­say Lohan is the lat­est celebrity to join the cam­paign, declar­ing “Tu­nisia we are with you”.

Af­ter all, the des­ti­na­tion still of­fers ex­cel­lent value for money – par­tic­u­larly for fam­i­lies. Adventure tour com­pany Ex­plore (www.ex­ cur­rently has a guar­an­teed de­par­ture for its new In­ter­ga­lac­tic Tu­nisian Fam­ily Adventure, de­part­ing Oc­to­ber 24 (from £995 with flights), which vis­its Tu­nis and some of the lo­ca­tions fea­tured in the Star Wars movies.

Let’s hope the only fu­ture bat­tles in store for the trou­bled North African coun­try are fic­tional in­ter­ga­lac­tic ones.

NAT­U­RAL WON­DER: Most pack­age hol­i­day com­pa­nies con­cen­trate on Tu­nisia’s coastal ar­eas but some have suspended day tours to Tu­nis.

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