Chinese market to be main factor to revive Tunisian tourism

With the sunset at the Mediterranean, a Chinese couple in their early sixties sat on the bench decorated with colorful blankets, enjoying the afternoon.

They were chatting at ease, with two cups of mint tea and pastries on the small blue round table.

Zhan Lijun, a 63-year-old retired teacher from Shanghai Municipality, said they came to the cafe on the cliff in Sidi Bou Said, after walking around the renowned resort village in Tunisia.

Located 20 km away from the capital Tunis, Sidi Bou Said was on top of a hill, overlooking the Mediterranean. With a history of over 800 years, Sidi Bou Said was famous for its extensive blue and white.

“We walk along the cobbled-stone streets, and find most buildings here with white walls and blue windows and doors, quite pure and beautiful,” said Wang Yan, a 61-year-old retired accountant.

The Chinese couple took part in an group tour for their first visit in Tunisia. “It is a fresh experience, and we feel relaxed here,” said Zhan. “We also tried bambaloni, the famous local fried doughnuts, tasting like Chinese food youtiao.”

Until May, nearly 12,000 Chinese tourists have visited Tunisia this year, with a rapid growth of 56.8 percent year on year, according to Tunisian Ministry of Tourism.

Two columns erected into the sky, with stone structures such as archways and water channels nearby. This was the ruins of the Antonin baths, part of the archaeological site of Carthage, located on a hill dominating the Gulf of Tunis.

Cheng Tian, a 35-year-old designer from China’s Tianjin Municipality, walked in the ruins and took photos of the remains from ancient times.

“I come to Tunisia as a self-guided traveler,” Cheng said. “Various archeological sites in this country enable me to have a close view of historical civilization, worth an in-depth travel.”

Tunisia, with a history of over 3,000 years, is renowned for its rich tourism resources, lying at the north point of the African continent.

In February 2017, Tunisia decided to offer visa-free entry to Chinese tourists for stay of no more than 90 days in the country.

Since then, China has become one of Tunisia’s fastest-growing markets, with tourist arrivals rising from about 7,400 in 2016 to over 18,000 in 2017.

Tunisia also welcomed the first Chinese chartered-flight tourist group in February this year, as the North African country expects to attract more people from the world’s biggest tourist market.

Tunisian Minister of Tourism Salma Elloumi said Chinese tourist market would be a significant factor to revive Tunisian tourism industry.

Chinese tourists made 130 million overseas trips in 2017, with total spending amounting to 115 billion US dollars, according to a report jointly released by China Tourism Academy and online travel agency Ctrip.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, China is considered the world’s fastest growing tourism market.

Amouar Chetoui, deputy representative in Beijing Bureau of Tunisian National Tourism Office, expected Chinese tourists in Tunisia to reach 50,000 by the year 2020.

The currency exchange between Chinese yuan and Tunisian dinar will officially be put into effect in Tunisia in the coming months and the payment with UnionPay would also be possible, said Chetoui.

Tunisia witnessed a slump in its tourism since 2015 when the country was hit by three major terrorist attacks, which claimed the lives of more than 70 people, mostly foreign tourists and security forces.

Tourism in Tunisia started to revive in 2017, with the introduction of tighter security measures and return of visitors’ confidence in security situation. The North African country received more than seven million tourists from all over the world last year, a year-on-year growth of over 20 percent.

Raouf Ben Aziza, a 37-year-old local businessman in Sidi Bou Said, ran a souvenir shop and a private museum with his family members since his childhood.

Aziza was quite optimistic about this year’s tourism. “We have received more foreign tourists, especially those from China,” Aziza said. “We welcome more Chinese tourists to visit our country, and they will find it’s beautiful and safe here.”

TunisianMonitorOnline (Global Times)

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