Tunisia’s tourism industry hit hard by coronavirus pandemic

Tourism accounts for about eight percent of Tunisia’s national output and is the country’s second biggest employer, with around 400,000 people involved in the industry. (AFP)
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Updated 27 September 2020

Tunisia’s tourism industry hit hard by coronavirus pandemic

  • Tourism accounts for about eight percent of Tunisia’s national output

DUBAI: Tunisia’s tourism industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, and is expected to decline further before 2020 ends.

Tourist activity has shrunk by 60 percent, the country’s tourism minister Habib Ammar said, and that figure could reach 70 percent to reflect the World Tourism Organization’s estimate for global tourism.

Tourism accounts for about eight percent of Tunisia’s national output and is the country’s second biggest employer, with around 400,000 people involved in the industry, after the agricultural sector.

The number of tourists rose 13.6 percent to 9.5 million in 2019, a record level, but Tunisia’s 10-million-visitor target for this year was sidelined when the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Despite this quandary, the government is considering various proposals to help stakeholders in the sector, state news agency TAP reported.

A gradual recovery of tourism activity will be recorded next year, both worldwide and nationwide, ensuring that the tourist units that will be preserved will have the capacity to accommodate tourists, it added.

Ammar also said that government remains committed to implement support plans such as the rescheduling of the settlement of bank and social security fund debts, and extending credits over longer repayment periods.

The tourism ministry is working with all intervening parties to implement this measure, which will make it possible to provide liquidity to the tourist units, and consequently, to guarantee a better future for the tourist activity, he added.

“This will also allow the ministry to develop a strategy and a clear plan for the sector in the medium and long term.”


Britain, EU tell each other to move on trade

Updated 20 October 2020

Britain, EU tell each other to move on trade

  • Both sides call on each other to protect billions of dollars of trade between the neighbors

BRUSSELS: Britain and the EU said on Monday the door was still open for a deal on their post-Brexit relationship, calling on each other to compromise to find a way to protect billions of dollars of trade between the neighbors.

With just over two months before Britain ends a status quo transition arrangement with the EU, talks on a trade deal are deadlocked, with neither wanting to move first to offer concessions.

A no-deal finale to Britain’s five-year Brexit drama would disrupt the operations of manufacturers, retailers, farmers and nearly every other sector — just as the economic hit from the coronavirus pandemic worsens.

European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic repeated on Monday that the EU still wanted a trade deal but not “at any cost” after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday there was no point in continuing talks.

“It has to be a fair agreement for both sides — we are not going to sign an agreement at any cost,” Sefcovic told reporters after meeting Michael Gove, Britain’s point man on the existing divorce agreement, in London.

“The EU is ready to work until the last minute for a good agreement for both parties,” Sefcovic said.

Britain, increasingly frustrated by the EU’s refusal to start text-based talks, called on the bloc to make the first move, with its housing minister saying that Brussels only had to make “some relatively small but important changes.”

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick called on the EU to “go that extra mile, to come closer to us on the points that remain for discussion.”

A spokesman for Johnson again ruled out prolonging any negotiation beyond the end of this year, when the transition period runs out, saying the EU “must be ready to discuss the detailed legal text of a treaty in all areas with a genuine wish to respect UK sovereignty and independence.”

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier had been due in London for talks with British counterpart David Frost this week. Instead, they will now speak by telephone on Monday to discuss the structure of future talks, Barnier’s spokesman said.

Negotiations broke down on Thursday, when the EU demanded Britain give ground. Issues still to be resolved include fair competition rules, including state aid and fisheries. EU diplomats and officials cast Johnson’s move as a frantic bid to secure concessions before a last-minute deal was done, and European leaders have asked Barnier to continue talks.

British officials have repeatedly said any deal has to honor Britain’s new status as a sovereign country and not try to tie it to EU rules and regulations.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said compromises on both sides would be needed. French President Emmanuel Macron said Britain needed a deal more than the 27-nation EU.

Britain is launching a campaign this week urging businesses to step up preparations for a no-deal departure. In a statement accompanying the launch, Gove says: “Make no mistake, there are changes coming in just 75 days and time is running out for businesses to act.”

More than 70 British business groups representing over 7 million workers on Sunday urged politicians to get back to the negotiating table next week and strike a deal.