Tunisia – Tunisian Tourism Minister Selma Elloumi defended the current government headed by Habib Essid describing it as “unjustly treated” government that has worked a lot to change economical and social situations.
During an exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Elloumi stressed on the important role the Ministry of Tourism plays in financial revenues which can boost
investments and create job opportunities.
Elloumi added that lack of “party support” for Essid is the reason the government has been accused of failure. She added that the government was able to achieve greatly especially in security and tracking terrorist organizations.
When asked whether she supports assigning a prime minister from Nidaa Party, Elloumi commented that she supports the presidential initiative for what is best for the public. As for prime minister, she said it is imperative that a decision be taken quickly.
Elloumi admitted that Tunisia had a tough touristic season, but despite all difficulties, Tunisia received 6.5 million tourists last year. She explained that tourism in Tunisia underwent restructuring with a longterm strategy which depends on various Tunisian aspects including medical tourism and over 40 thousand archeological sites.
Elloumi commented: “We consider supporting tourism in Tunisia after revolution of 2011 one of the most important means to fight terrorism.”
When asked by Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper whether Tunisia overcame the terrorist attacks of last year, Elloumi said that terrorism is an international problem and one country can’t fight it alone. She added that terrorism had cost Tunisia a lot on the financial and investment levels.
Elloumi mentioned that despite all, Tunisia was able to sign several treaties with countries of the European Union. In addition, Ministry of Tourism cooperated with Ministry of Interior to determine the security specifications at the hotels.
The minister also mentioned that security at the airport and main touristic areas has been increased.
According to Elloumi, the Arab tourist plays an important role in enhancing the situations as well as local tourism which complements with foreign tourism. She added that local tourism in Tunisia is less than ten per cent of the total, as opposed to over 30 in other countries.
In response to any changes that might occur to the touristic strategy, Elloumi said that for over 50 years, Tunisia has been working in the same manner and using the same techniques. Thus, a new strategy has been adopted last year.
Following the Sousse terrorist attack, Tunisian government deployed one thousand soldiers in touristic areas and provided hotels with surveillance. Elloumi said that most hotels responded to the governmental decision, and those who didn’t were risking closure.
The minister added that no investor is allowed to open a touristic facility without presenting a certificate of a self-insurance plan first.
Elloumi expected this year to witness a better season with increased number of tourists. She added: “Tunisia is a special destination.”
When asked about the tourism cooperation between Tunisia and Iran, Elloumi said that it created a “real headache” for Tunisia.
“It is a technical agreement that aims at conducting touristic trainings given that both Iran and Tunisia are part of the World Tourism Organization,” she added
She explained that the deal spoke of thousands of Iranian tourists coming to Tunisia, yet nothing of that happened.
Minister Elloumi also said that nothing will change or influence the beliefs of the Tunisian people.