Tunisia says revolt to boost tourism

AFP , Wednesday 19 Jan 2011

A popular revolt in Tunisia will benefit tourism in the long term, even though holidaymakers took fright in past weeks, the country's ambassador to Spain said Wednesday.

"Tourists were a bit worried," Ambassador Mohamed Ridha Kechrid conceded in an interview on the opening day of the five-day international tourism trade fair, Fitur, in Madrid.

"Now order has been re-established and from now on tourists can come back to Tunisia," he said.

"There was a crisis of confidence, which is bad for everyone, for Tunisians, for foreign investors and of course for tourists," he added.

But once democratic elections have been organized "Tunisia will be even more beautiful, more credible... and this change will be beneficial for Tunisian tourism and for the economy."

Tourism is Tunisia's major foreign exchange earner, covering 60 per cent of the trade deficit. It accounts for 6.5 per cent of total economic output and gives work to 350,000 people in the country of 10 million.

Kechrid said Tunisian tourism should diversify.

"For a long time Tunisia has been identified with the beach, sun, sand... but now we should promote the Tunisian Sahara, golf tourism, conferences, culture."

The mass revolt in Tunisia began last month, driving former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to flee the country on Friday after 23 years of iron-fisted rule.

On Wednesday, thousands of Tunisians rallied against their new government in central Tunis, angry at the former ruling party's continued grip in power after Ben Ali's toppling.

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