Tunisia off the map for European sun-seekers

Tourist police officers patrol at the beach in Sousse, Tunisia, July 1, 2015.
Tourist police officers patrol at the beach in Sousse, Tunisia, July 1, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

Tourists heading to Spain, Bulgaria and Greece after beach hotel attack inTunisia

BERLIN • Fearing for their safety in Tunisia after a gunman killed dozens of tourists, sun-seeking Europeans are switching to destinations such as Spain, Bulgaria or even Greece for their holidays.

Tunisia's tourism industry had been recovering after the Arab Spring unrest, and had become a popular lower-cost beach holiday spot for Europeans. Last year, 2.8 million travelled there, rebounding towards the 3.8 million level seen in 2010 before the uprising, according to official statistics.

But last week's attack - in which 38 people, mostly Britons were killed by an Islamist gunman at a beach hotel - added to security fears raised after a massacre at the Bardo museum in March, when two gunmen opened fire on tourists.

Now many tourists who had planned or booked Tunisian trips are looking elsewhere.

Long-haul destinations are unlikely to pick up tourists originally destined for Tunisia, said travel analyst Angelo Rossini from market research firm Euromonitor. Destinations such as the Maldives, the Caribbean and Mexico are typically more pricey and target a different customer segment.

NOT A RELAXING HOLIDAY

Imagine you're sitting on the beach watching security staff patrolling with guns. That's not a relaxed, carefree holiday.

PROFESSOR VOLKER BOETTCHER, a professor of tourism management at Harz University in Germany

Instead, the biggest beneficiary is expected to be Spain which targets those seeking a value-for- money all-inclusive holiday, said Mr Rossini.

However, those switching may have to pay a premium as the holiday season is already under way and people typically book months in advance.

Mr Juan Molas, chairman of the Spanish Hotel Federation Cehat, said Bulgaria and Turkey, which have lost a lot of their customers from Russia due to the economic crisis there, could prove to be good-value alternatives to Spain.

However, some industry experts said Westerners staying away from Tunisia for security reasons may be unwilling to switch to countries such as Turkey, which borders war-torn Syria, and Egypt, where there has been social and political unrest in recent years.

Mr Rossini predicted tourism to Tunisia could be affected for at least two years.

Tunisia has heightened security at tourist hot spots but experts say the increased security presence may do little to help boost tourism.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 05, 2015, with the headline 'Tunisia off the map for European sun-seekers'. Print Edition | Subscribe