A cruise ship docked in a Tunisian port on Wednesday for the first time since 2019, carrying over 700 passengers and rare good news for tourism operators battered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Spirit of Discovery, run by UK operator Saga, landed at La Goulette port on the edge of Tunis where it was welcomed by camels and a band playing traditional Tunisian music.
“We were not trading for about 18 months... but we’ve been back in business since last July and this is our first call here to northern Africa,” said Captain Kim Tanner.
British tourist John Hilton, 75, said he was “absolutely delighted” to be in Tunisia.
“We’re certainly pleased to get out and see some of the world and get to some of the places that we haven’t seen,” he said.
The ship was carrying 724 passengers, mostly British but also German, Italian, and Spanish, according to Tourism Minister Moez Belhassen.
He said the cruise liner was the first of at least 40 expected to dock in Tunis this year.
“This is very important for many sectors... especially given the spending power of tourists,” he said.
After two disastrous seasons, Tunisian authorities are hoping to bring visitor numbers and spending back to 60 percent of 2019 levels, the best season since the North African country’s 2011 revolution.
In normal years, tourism makes up around 14 percent of Gross Domestic Product and provides a living for two million Tunisians, around a sixth of the population.
But the sector has suffered several crises since the 2011 revolt, which inspired revolutions across the Arab world.
In 2015, ISIS group-linked militants waged a string of deadly attacks at key tourist hotspots.
The sector had started to recover when the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns sent visitor numbers and revenues tumbling by some 80 percent.
Tunisia train collision injures 95: Emergency servicesA collision between two passenger trains injured 95 people on Monday morning in the south of the Tunisian capital, emergency services said.For the ... North Africa
Terrorists suspected in gunfire on Tunisia police post, no casualties reportedA firefight broke out between suspected terrorists and police near a national guard barracks early Sunday in the central Tunisian region of Kairouan, ... North Africa
Bodies of 17 migrants found off Tunisia coastThe bodies of 17 migrants who were attempting to reach Europe have been found off Tunisia’s northeast coast, the civil defense said on Saturday.The ... North Africa
IMF to send teams to Lebanon, Tunisia this monthThe IMF will send staff to Lebanon and Tunisia this month to further discussions on new financial aid programs for the countries, a fund spokesman ... Economy
Tunisia says it has dismantled ISIS-linked terrorist cellPolice have broken up a militant cell linked to ISIS in the southern Tunisian city of Tataouine, the interior ministry said on Wednesday.For the ... North Africa
UAE’s Bukhatir group revives $5 billion real estate project in TunisiaUAE-based Bukhatir Group said on Thursday it was reviving a $5 billion real estate project in Tunis and would start work immediately on an initial ... Economy
Saudi Arabia e-visa app for Hajj, Umrah pilgrims now available in TunisiaThe Saudi Visa bio smartphone application, an electronic visa processing app for pilgrims planning to perform Hajj and Umrah in the Kingdom to ... Gulf
Tunisia’s President Saied declares ‘war’ on food profiteering amid shortagesTunisian President Kais Saied declared war Wednesday on food speculators amid a shortage of products such as wheat and semolina – key staples in a ... North Africa
Tunisia sees UAE investments in real estate, solar projectsUAE-based Bukhatir Group will revive a $5 billion real estate project in Tunis, Tunisian sources told Reuters on Friday, the first big project in the ... Economy
IMF reports ‘good progress’ in Tunisia talksThe International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday it had made “good progress” in talks with Tunisia ultimately aimed at a possible rescue package to ... North Africa