Tunisia Sees Tourism Boom

Tunisia may see a significant growth in the number of international visitors to the country, with a 30 per cent rise in arrivals during the first half of 2017, a government official said on Tuesday.

Last year tourist arrivals fell to 5.5 million, after several European tour companies and cruise operators suspended operations in the wake of the Bardo and Sousse attacks.

Lost revenues contributed to a slowdown in economic growth, pushing the Tunisian dinar to historic lows against the dollar and euro.

The Tunisian tourism market now anticipates recovery by promoting ‘cultural tourism’ and improving security around tourist sites across the country.

Tourism Ministry officials say hotel bookings for this summer have been rising, especially from Russia.

Tourism accounts for 8 percent of gross domestic product in Tunisia, with about 472.8 employees, or 13.9% percent of Tunisia’s workforce.

Tunisair Suspends All Flights Over Uniform Row

The travel plans of hundreds of passengers have been left in turmoil after Tunisair was forced to suspend all flights  until further notice.

The move came amid ‘altercations’ between aircrew and maintenance workers over uniforms which escalated in physical clashes at Tunis Carthage airport.

Police reinforcements were sent to the airport and a crisis cell including the Minister of Transport was created in order to tackle the situation.

Tunisair later announced a gradual resumption of flights after talks with trade union representatives, but warned of further interruption until the issue is fully resolved.

The carrier also apologized to passengers, saying the decision was aimed at ‘preserving the safety of its fleet’.

According to its website, Tunisair has 29 aircraft that usually operate an average of 47 flights a day to destinations mostly in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Crocodile stoned to death at Tunisia zoo

Less than a week after reports that a hippo had been beaten at an El Salvador zoo by nighttime mystery attackers, a crocodile was stoned to death by visitors at a Tunisia zoo.

Amor Ennaifer, a vet at the Belvedere zoo, said the reptile died from internal hemorrhage after being hit on the head by two large rocks.

“There are more than 150 species in the zoo. We can’t put a guard in front of each cage,” he said, “People need to be aware of the need to respect animals.”

Gruesome pictures of the attack were posted to Facebook by the municipality of Tunis, which condemned the attack as “savage behavior.”

Environment Minister Riadh Mouakher said an investigation had been opened into the incident, adding that measures to “increase the number of guards and deploy environmental police agents” are being taken.

The Belvedere Zoo has been in need of maintenance for years.

Last year, graphic images showing the zoo covered with litter caused social media outcry.


Tunisia to Ban Supermarket Plastic Bags

A ban on plastic bags will take effect in Tunisia beginning March 1, making it the first Arab nation to take such a step.

The law prohibits major supermarket chains, such as Carrefour and Monoprix, from distributing single- use plastic bags. The action does not affect retailers or produce stands.

Each year, Tunisians use about 1 billion plastic bags, and supermarkets alone distribute 315 million of them, generating 10,000 tons of waste that take over 400 years to decompose.

According to he Ministry of Local Affairs and Environment, removing those bags from the consumer cycle will make a significant dent in those numbers.

“It is no longer acceptable to see 50-micron plastic bags thrown into the environment,” Tunisian Environmental Minister Riadh Mouakher said last October.

« Ciitzens will have to change their habits and become aware of the importance of preserving the environment.”

The measure, announced last year, was initially met with resistance especially from the chemical industry.

“Many people are not happy about it,” said Adnen Ben Haj, president and founder of the Association Tunisienne pour la Nature et Développement Durable. “They assume supermar­kets are doing this to get more profit.”

In many Tunisian supermarkets, large, reusable cloth bags or heavier-duty plastic bags are sold at the checkout lines.


Doctors Protest to Speed up Promulgation of Medical Liability Law

Hundreds of doctors and other medical professionals rallied Wednesday in Tunis calling for accelerated submission of the medical liability law to the parliament.

Protesters gathered in front of the Faculty of Medicine of Tunis before marching towards the Government’s square in Kasbah, chanting slogans denouncing what they say is a ‘criminalization of their profession’.

The demand for the medical liability law followed the recent preventive detention of doctors ‘before the medical error was proved’, said Khemaïes Zayed, Deputy Secretary General of the Liberal Doctors’ Union.

‘The growing fear among healthcare workers is the impact a case of alleged negligence could have on their license’, he added.

to be continued


US gives Tunisia new helicopters to fight terrorism

The United States government has given six military helicopters to the Tunisian armed forces to boost its endeavors against terrorism, said a government statement on Saturday.

Eighteen more helicopters of the same type are due for delivery in March.

Prime Minister Youssef Chahed received the six helicopters at the southern military base of Gabes.

The helicopters would reinforce the army’s reconnaissance and attack capabilities in ‘the war against terrorism’, he said.

The grant, valued at $100.8 million, is part of the assistance pledged by the US State Department to boost security in the region.

Tunisia has been the target of a wave of deadly terrorist attacks since 2011 revolution and the UN estimates that at least 5,000 Tunisians are fighting for extremist groups, mainly in Iraq and Syria.