Million fewer tourists visit Tunisia after attacks

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 21, 2015 10:01 AM

By Tarek Amara

TUNIS (Reuters) - The number of foreign tourists visiting Tunisia dropped by about a million in the first eight months of the year to four million after two Islamist militant attacks, the tourism minister said on Monday.

Thirty-eight people were killed by a gunman at a hotel in Sousse on the Mediterranean coast in June, three months after 21 tourists were killed by gunmen attacking the Bardo National Museum in the capital Tunis.

The Islamic State militant group claimed the two worst attacks in the North African country's history.

Tunisia, which relied on tourism for about 7 percent of its gross domestic product, is under a state of emergency after the attacks with security heightened around tourist sites and high-profile locations in the capital.

"The number of tourists dropped to about four million since the beginning of the year through to September 10 compared with five million who visited Tunisia in the same period last year," Tourism Minister Salma Loumi said.

Some hotels have closed while foreign tour groups have canceled some routes, cruises and packages.

While acknowledging the difficult situation, Loumi said the industry should take advantage of this time to start reforms, including improving the quality of services and diversifying tourism options.

Tunisia has cut its economic growth forecast to 0.5 percent for this year, down from an initially expected 3 percent.

Britain is advising tourists against travel to the country after 30 of its citizens were killed in the Sousse attack when a gunman opened fire on holidaymakers while they lounged at the beach and poolside.

Tour operators TUI and Thomas Cook have halted their Tunisia programs from Britain until next year, while tour operators across Europe have shifted some capacity to destinations such as Spain.

(Editing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Janet Lawrence)