International donors are mobilising for sustainable tourism in Tunisia

November 16, 2020

(TAP/Nedra Boukesra) - 'Never before have donors mobilised so much funding for Tunisian tourism,' Mouna Gliss, Director General of International Cooperation at the Ministry of Tourism, said in an interview with TAP.

Despite the crisis that is hitting Tunisian tourism hard, international donors are still interested in this sector and in particular, alternative accommodation and sustainable tourism.

For the first time, the United States plans to mobilise through its Agency USAID, between 30 and 50 million dollars (the equivalent of 82 and 137 million dinars) under the programme 'Visit Tunisia' for the development of sustainable tourism over the next 5 years, she said.

'Some 50.5 million euros (about 164.3 million dinars) are also mobilised by the EU, the GIZ and Swiss cooperation, as part of 'Tounes Wijhetouna' programme to support the diversification of tourism, the development of value chains of crafts and design and the enhancement of cultural heritage, which will run from 2020 to 2024'.

The official explains 'this passion' by the importance of the role that tourism can play in sustainable development and employment. A study by the World Tourism Organisation carried out in 2018 showed that one job created directly in tourism leads to the creation of 4 others, indirectly.

The on-going cooperation programmes were developed after nearly 2 years of negotiations, involving all parties concerned, including civil society in the regions. They aim to compensate for shortcomings characterising the Tunisian tourism offer, according to the Director.

Remedy shortcomings

These shortcomings relate to the lack of diversification of products and innovative circuits, the lack of enhancement of regional wealth and existing heritage, the seasonality of the sector and skills problems, including the lack of skilled labour and training, according to a document developed by the Ministry of Tourism.

To address these shortcomings, it was decided to develop the domestic market and alternative accommodation, with a view to staggering the tourist season and reducing unemployment, particularly among young people and women, objectives to which international donors have subscribed.

By 2023/2024, the Ministry of Tourism plans to triple the number of nights spent in charming hotels, guesthouses, bed and breakfasts and guest houses approved by Tunisia's National Tourist Office (ONTT), compared to about 2 million nights currently, says Gliss. The cost of a night is estimated at an average of 150 dinars.

In parallel with the development of alternative modes of accommodation, the funds mobilised within the framework of international cooperation enable, in particular, the implementation of new tourism products focused on ecotourism and cultural and sustainable tourism.

The 'Tounes Wijhetouna' programme, launched in 2019, has so far enabled the development of the film route in addition to the ongoing preparations to launch a call for applications for the development of the gastronomic route in 2021.

This programme will continue until 2024, for the development of two other thematic routes with 'a flagship local product and with strong tourism potential', namely the sports and outdoor route and the cultural route.

The film route, which was validated last October, will be ready in July 2021. It will allow tourists, especially cinéphiles 'to follow in the footsteps of 15 sites from Tunis to Tataouine, which were used to shoot cult films such as The English Patient, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Black Gold or Life of Brian.

In addition, destinations will be developed under this programme in the cities of Tunis, Tozeur, Mahdia, Kef and Zaghouan.

That of Tunis includes the development of cycling and walking routes in Carthage (work was launched last April), in addition to the ongoing redevelopment of the historic site and museum of Carthage and improving the quality of the reception on site, says Gliss.

At least 5 products must be developed per destination, with the collaboration of Swiss Contact.

The programme works to promote the exchange and support of innovative young companies 'Grow Together' for digital solutions in tourism.

The sustainable tourism programme expects the development of 10% of the turnover of 800 micro, small and medium enterprises, the employment of 1,000 people, including 500 women and 300 young people and the conclusion of 15 commercial transactions with private actors.

As for the 'Visit Tunisia' programme, developed by the USAID Agency and launched this year, it is based on 4 axes: strengthening the competitiveness of Tunisia as a tourist destination; increasing investment and income related to tourism; developing an environment conducive to sustained growth of the sector and the involvement of the private sector in expanding the supply and quality of alternative tourism.

A call for tenders for the selection of the executing agency for this programme was launched in early November.

This programme brings new working methods and provides, in particular, the creation of a support fund and new funding mechanisms for private actors, in addition to the development of a long-term strategic plan and a positioning plan for alternative tourism in Tunisia, says Director of International Cooperation.

Synergy and territorial marketing

Synergies are created between the various programmes, whose fruits are beginning to be visible particularly through the project for the development of sustainable tourism in southeastern Tunisia, which works to develop three emblematic destinations in the region, namely Djerba, Dahar and Ksar Ghilane.

The destination of Dahar has already been able to improve its results and has suffered less from the COVID crisis.

The project for the development of sustainable tourism in southeastern Tunisia, which continues until 2023, provides for 'the development and wide dissemination of methods of training offers, territorial marketing and inclusive mode of governance, especially for young people including the repatriated and women'.

According to Mouna Gliss, the project brings a novelty in territorial marketing through the 'Destination Management Organisation' (DMO), a concept that brings together all stakeholders in the product to work on territorial marketing.

In addition to the US and European contribution, the Department of Tourism hopes to relaunch cooperation with Japanese cooperation agency (JICA), which has been its partner, after the revolution in the project to develop Saharan tourism among Asian customers.

The Project has not had time to succeed because of travel restrictions imposed by foreign chancelleries on the movement of tourists after the terrorist attacks of 2015.

Gliss says the department is also interested in the Canadian experience in the training of tourism personnel and the Chinese experience in the development of startups specialising in the digitalisation of tourism and hotel services, which allows reducing human contact, an option eagerly sought after the COVID crisis.

Thus, thanks to the various programmes carried out within the framework of international cooperation, in 5 years Tunisian tourism will become more competitive, but we must first ensure the implementation of other conditions including the promotion of land and air transport (especially open sky) and digitalisation to adapt to the changes that the COVID crisis will not fail to bring in the tourism market in the world, concludes the official.


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