The most obvious result of the Bardo attack and June’s attack on a tourist hotel in Sousse, where 59 tourists were killed, is a significant drop in tourism.
“With this curse of terrorism that directly affects tourist destinations, we have seen a drop in tourists, compared to 2014,” Maher Klibi of the Tunisian tourist office in France, told RFI.
Just 1.3 million people visited Tunisia in 2015, 53 per cent fewer than the year before. The tourist industry, which made up 7.5 per cent of GDP, has dropped to six per cent. And continuing jihadist attacks are not helping. A week ago, 50 people were killed on the Libyan border in an attack that authorities believe involved home-grown Tunisian terrorists.
Since the 2011 revolution that overthrew longtime leader Zine Abedine Ben Ali, the country has floundered economically and has become a prime target for jihadist recruiters. Officials estimate more than 3,000 Tunisians have gone to fight for the Islamic State armed group and other jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq since 2011.
To fight the draw, Tunisia is launching a campaign on Sunday to promote what it calls the “real, moderate values” of Islam.
At the inauguration of the French Institute in Tunis on Thursday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called on young people to resist the path of jihadists. He said his two-day visit to the country was focused on security, notably in the stabilisation of neighbouring Libya.
“The fight we are fighting for Libya to have a government is a fight that also concerns Tunisian security,” he said. “We are doing this to control the situation and stop the progression of [the Islamic State] that is also threatening Tunisia.”
France has pledged a five-year, billion-euro aid package and is also providing intelligence and training for Tunisia’s Special Forces.
“I don’t think France has given the necessary military support to Tunisia in the last few years,” political scientist Taoufik Djebali of the University of Caen told RFI. But with the increased terrorism threat, he says France is now realizing it needs to help. “France realizes the Tunisian army needs support to face [IS] in a better way”.
Djebali says Ayrault’s visit to Tunisia could result in France petitioning the European Union for more direct aid to help both unemployment issues and to support the military.
- With Jan van der Made