A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tunisia Seeks to Restore Tourism, Reassure Beachgoers, Jewish Pilgrims

Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali has told a conference on tourism in Djerba that the new Tunisian government, though Jebali's own Al-Nahda Party is the largest party, it intends to continue to encourage tourism to Tunisia's beaches and other destinations:
"We will respect the traditions of our visitors in their food, and clothing and lifestyle," Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali said at a conference to promote tourism held on the island of Djerba, known for its white sandy beaches and luxury spas.
Though the news story refers inaccurately to the "Islamist government" (Nahda lacks a majority), it also notes:
As if to reinforce his message, a wide selection of alcoholic beverages was on offer at the opening ceremony of the tourism conference on Sunday night.
I guess that's what he means when he refers to "their food." Anyway, it's been clear all along that Tunisia was not — whatever its hardcore Salafis might prefer — about to pursue the bans on "booze and bikinis" Islamists in Egypt keep discussing.

Tunisia, like the whole region since the "Arab Spring," has suffered from a decline in tourism, and is trying to get out the message that the beaches are open and welcoming. This from the Tunisia Tourist Board Site:
The Tunisia Tourism Board is On Message

They seem to be having some success: earlier this month the first cruise liner of the season docked at La Goulette outside Tunis.

Some may recall that last year Tunisia stirred controversy over what many thought were overly suggestive ads on the sides of London buses, such as this one:
That may indeed have raised some eyebrows, but it also got a lot of attention for Tunisia, and made its point.

Another tourism element the new government appears intent on holding on to is the international Jewish tourism/pilgrimage trade to the medieval synagogue on the island Djerba. This, too, is being continued and encouraged by the government. Djerba, where the tourism promotion conference was held, is known for both the ancient synagogue and its beaches.

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