Tunisia is among the most visited countries in Africa. Its landscapes, beaches, the Sahara Desert, and the ruins from the ancient Roman and Phoenician civilizations attract millions of tourists each year. However, the tourism industry in the country has been suffering in the last decade due to the 2011 Revolution, the 2015 terrorist attacks, and the recent coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Specifically, the global health crisis caused the sharpest fall in the number of inbound tourists, which declined by around 100 percent in April 2020 compared to the previous year.
National security and coronavirus-affected inbound tourism
From 2010 onwards, the number of inbound tourists in Tunisia has fluctuated due to different factors. Before the COVID-19 pandemic caused a crisis for the tourism industry, Tunisia had been concerned with the escalation of violence and political instability during the 2011 Revolution. A few years later, in 2015, terrorist attacks targeted tourist attractions in the country, causing 22 deaths in a tourist resort in Sousse and 38 deaths in the Bardo National Museum in Tunis. Whether concerning national security or the pandemic, those periods were characterized by general instability, which resulted in a decline in the number of international tourist arrivals. Except for these periods, Tunisia has always been counting between seven and eight million annual visitors, mostly from Africa and Europe. After 2020, inbound tourism began to recover gradually.
Main travel destinations and attractions
For many international tourists, going on vacation to Tunisia means enjoying a crystal clear sea and golden sand. The island of Jerba and the coastal areas of Zarzis and Gabes are among the country’s most popular destinations, accounting for the highest number of overnight stays by international tourists. Visitors also flock to historical sites of Tunisia to learn more about the country's past. The Archeological Site of Carthage, which includes the vestiges of the ancient Phoenician and Roman civilizations, is the most visited attraction in the country, together with the Amphitheatre of El Jem and the Bardo National Museum in Tunis.
Recovering economic contribution
Tourism is one of the main industries in Tunisia and usually constitutes a profitable segment of the country's large service sector. In normal times, the tourism industry significantly contributes to the country's economy, as well as to the job market. For instance, tourist sites, attractions, transports, hotels, and accommodation facilities directly generated 92,700 jobs in 2021 and over 150,000 in 2019. Additionally, after the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted tourism revenues in 2020, the industry gradually recovered in the following period. In 2022, tourism's economic contribution grew to 10 percent of the GDP, a share forecast to reach 16 percent by 2025.
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