First cruise ship docks in Tunisia since 2015 attack

First cruise ship docks in Tunisia since 2015 attack

LA GOULETTE-Agence France-Presse
First cruise ship docks in Tunisia since 2015 attack

AFP Photo

A celebratory band played Oct. 6 as a cruise liner docked in the port of Tunis for the first time since a March 2015 jihadist attack killed 21 tourists in the capital.
The German-operated MS Europa motored into La Goulette with 350 passengers on board for a one-day stopover.

The tourists, cameras at the ready, were greeted by a band of soldiers playing trumpets and drums, as well as camels and North African dancing, while the local tourist shops garlanded them with jasmine necklaces as they disembarked.

Tunisian authorities, who have ordered high security for the visit, are hoping to lure back the big cruise operators who have abandoned the country for the past year and a half since the gun attack on the capital’s Bardo National Museum.

“The arrival of the liner Europa does not in itself signal the resumption of cruise liner activities in Tunisia,” said Malek Ghanemi, head of La Goulette’s cruise liner terminal.

“But it’s very important because it sends out a positive and reassuring message,” he told AFP.

Gabriella, a tourist from Berlin, was all smiles as she headed off for Tunis medina, or old city, a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site. “I’m not scared at all,” she said.

Many of the tourists who died in the March 18, 2015 attack claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadist group that also killed a policeman were on cruise stopovers.

Tunisia’s tourism sector has been in crisis ever since the revolution of 2011 which led to the overthrow of longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The industry used to contribute around seven percent of GDP and supported 400,000 jobs.