Mediterranean firms mull ways to draw tourists back
First tourists of the season enjoy the sun in Marmaris, Turkey’s popular destination on the Aegean coast. Arab Spring nations are discussing ways to regain tourists’ confidence. DHA photo
Mediterranean states opened a conference yesterday on the future of tourism in the region, in a bid to claw back market share lost because of the Arab Spring uprisings and the European debt crisis.
“Besides the economic crisis in the origin countries, the ongoing political changes in North African and Middle East destinations have negative repercussions on the sector,” said the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Tunisian government, which organized the two-day meeting.
“The aim is to preserve the position of the Mediterranean zone as the top global destination in terms of international arrivals,” Frederic Pierret, executive director of the UNWTO, told at the meeting on the Djerba island. Some 400 people from 40 countries, including Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and Turkey, attended the event. Host country Tunisia, where a popular uprising led to the ousting of strongman Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011, saw its tourism receipts plunge by a third in 2011.
Tourism is a key sector for Tunisia, making up 7 percent of its output and directly employing 400,000 people.
‘Tunisia a jungle’
Its prime minister Hamadi Jebali stressed during the conference that revolution in his country has turned it into a “jungle”, and tourism minister Elyes Fakhfakh said Tunisia remains “an open country.” The tourism minister also suggested creating a Mediterranean label under which travel opportunities in the region could be jointly marketed abroad.
Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay at the event that countries needed to engage in cooperation to achieve a growth in the tourism sector.
“Turkey believes that growth in tourism and securing the sector’s future is possible through an international vision for cooperation,” Günay in a keynote speech at the conference. Anatolia news agency quoted Günay as saying that nearly one-third of global tourism revenue was generated in the Mediterranean with half of the globe’s tourists visited the region annually. “Similarities and peculiarities of the countries in the Mediterranean give us the ability to claim the lion’s share in the global tourism sector as well as to shape it.”
ISRAELI TOURISTS SIGNAL RETURN
Some 3,000 Israeli tourists are expected to visit Turkey’s southern province of Antalya in April, a figure much higher than it has been in the past few years, according to Israeli daily Haaretz. Turkish charter-flight firms doubled the number of flights to and from Israel over the Passover holiday, according to the source. The figure is still nowhere near what it was before diplomatic ties soured between the two countries.