“The tourism sector will see a clear improvement in 2019, especially since the bookings for the next tourist season have already begun for two months now, pointing to a strong signal of recovery”, Minister of Tourism and Handicrafts Selma Elloumi Rekik said in an interview with TAP.
Regarding the main tourism indicators for the 2018 season, the minister said about 5,151,663 tourists visited Tunisia from January 1 to August 20, 2018, up 17.5%, compared to same period of 2017.
 “Until August 20, 2018, tourism receipts have increased by 48.2%, compared to the same period of 2017, to 2,323.5 million dinars (MD) , €766 million (+ 27.5%), while in dollar, they rose 40.3% to $ 921 million.
The minister emphasised the great interest aroused by the Tunisian destination. “To further develop it, it is necessary to work on the medium and long terms, while respecting the environment and developing the human resources of the sector,” she pointed out.
Elloumi added: “the tourism department is working to ensure t hat Tunisia get back among traditional markets and at the same time develop new markets. We are working to diversify the Tunisian tourism product and are in the process of building partnerships with tour operators to develop high-end markets “.
“We are also targeting the Chinese market, because it is one of the biggest in the world and also because Chinese tourists are not interested in beach tourism, but are rather passionate about culture, gastronomy and shopping in Tunisia,” added Elloumi.
According to statistics provided by the Directorate of Borders and Aliens at the Ministry of the Interior, the number of Chinese tourists who went to Tunisia has increased by 50.4% to 17,636 people, until August 20, 2018.
The tourism department is also targeting the markets of the Gulf countries and Russia, which is one of the most attractive for Tunisia, added Elloumi, recalling that the Russian market has experienced a significant growth over the past two years.
She added that “the Russians are among the biggest spenders, according to a study prepared by the Ministry of Tourism and the ONTT”.
In addition, “the communication campaign of the Department of Tourism has already worked on the late-season (winter), which is distinguished by a different offer that begins in late October and early November of each year.”
Among the most expected visitors during this period, tourists from the Scandinavian countries whom come mainly to Tunisia for the golf.”
Indicators confirm the return of traditional markets
Analysing the indicators for the current year, the minister noted that they “confirm the return of traditional markets, with the arrival of 1,585,905 European tourists, i.e. a number of arrivals up by 50.5% compared to 2017.
This growth is mainly due to a sharp increase in the number of French (+ 37.9%), German (+ 61.9%), Russian (+ 34.6%) and other European (+81.6%) visitors. “
Regarding the Maghreb markets, “Tunisia has welcomed 2,432,366 visitors from the Maghreb from January 1 to August 20, posting an increase of 4.8% compared to the same period in 2017.
The number of Algerian tourists has risen slightly (1.5%) during that period, due to the celebration of Eid al-Adha”.
In terms of overnight stays by region, the Djerba-Zarzis area recorded the highest number of overnight stays (4.04 million overnight stays), followed by Sousse (2.92 million overnight stays).
In the same period of 2018, the number of nights spent by residents decreased by 6.2% to 3.5 million overnight stays. The number of overnight stays of Tunisians in 2010 (reference year) had reached 2.172 million overnight stays, said Elloumi.
A new scheme for the classification of tourism facilities will be published at the end of 2018
According to the Minister of Tourism, control operations to adapt Tunisian hotels to the minimal dimensional, functional and management standards dictated by the Tunisian National Tourist Office (ONTT) in 2005 came into force in January 2007.
“The number of cases dealt with by the ad hoc committees within the ONTT has reached 676 hotels until the end of July 2018.
The control operations led to the reclassification (downgrading) of 194 facilities, while about 377 hotel units have kept the same ranking: about 55 establishments have achieved a better ranking while 50 hotels have been deprived of their tourist ranking “.
Elloumi has also announced that a new project to overhaul the system of categorization of tourism facilities will be published at the end of December 2018, with a view to promoting the quality and services of the tourism sector.
This is a project aimed at aligning standards with international standards and bringing more credibility to the classification of tourism facilities. It also aims to align tourism products and services with the rankings granted to meet customer expectations.
Interview by Amira Jenzri, translated by Samir Ben Romdhane