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S. Elloumi Rekik, Tourism Minister of Tunisia: “Safety is our priority”

Interview with Salma Elloumi Rekik, Tourism Minister of Tunisia

For two days, Paris wore the colors of Tunisia to honor the State visit of the Tunisian President, Béji Caïd Essebsi, who came to reinforce the safety and economic cooperation between the two countries. For this occasion, many French politicians, from all political orientations, expressed their friendship and solidarity with the Tunisian people.

Rédigé par Michèle SANI translated by Joséphine Foucher le Jeudi 9 Avril 2015

Photo Tourism Ministry - Tunisia
Photo Tourism Ministry - Tunisia
François Hollande, Gérard Larcher President of the Senate, Claude Bartolone for the National Assembly, Laurent Fabius for the Minister of Foreign Affair and Tourism, and many more, have promised to personally make a trip to Tunisia.

Will this example from the higher ranks be followed by the French market?

From all over the Mediterranean, tourism professionals are hoping as much.

“Constructive” meetings were organized in a major Parisian hotel.

During her two busy days, three weeks after the Bardo attacks, Madam Salma Elloumi Rekik, Minister of Tourism and Craftsmanship since just two months, met with us. - Three weeks after the attack on the Bardo Museum what is the current situation of Tunisian tourism?

Salma E. Rekik: The drop in reservations dates from before the Bardo attack.

It started almost immediately after the attacks at Charlie Hebdo and in Danemark…

To answer your question, I would say that despite the crisis and recent events, some hotels are still filled to capacity.

Everybody had noticed it: the 2014 year was looking better than 2013.

Without reaching the same numbers as 2010, we could have hoped for 2015 to be a great year for Tunisian tourism. - The obvious question concerns security. How is Tunisia going to reassure the markets that provide tourists?

Salma E. Rekik: Safety is the priority of the new government. It is essential to give back confidence to sources markets, entrepreneurs, and investors.

That was the first point that I worked on upon my arrival at the Ministry, meaning before the Bardo attack. We were not prepared.

In the emergency, we created a commission with the Ministries of the Interior, Culture, and representatives of the different regions.

We’ll take care of this security in a clear and visible way like you do in France with police forces wearing their uniforms on duty at touristic and cultural sites.

All the hotels have received a circular letter on the topic. They are required to put in place indoor security with metal detectors, guards on the beaches, and everything is under the control of local authorities.

All of these measures along with border controls, and the transmissions of information, are part of the necessary work that we take on with European states and the United States. The war on terrorism concerns us all. - It seems that the police forces had kind of given up?

Salma E. Rekik: In four years Tunisia went through six transitional governments. We have indeed seen a drop of the State authority in the regions. Municipalities were destabilized. They were not managing their missions well anymore. This is no longer the case. - Tunisia also had a poor record terms of cleanliness, respect of the environment. I’m particularly referring to the Djerba island that is a major destination for the French market.

Salma E. Rekik: Emergency solutions were put in place.

You know, when I arrived at the Ministry, I was aware of the weaknesses of the tourism sector, the poor respect of the environment, the need to raise the quality of our resort services but also negotiating prices depending on the quality, the financial difficulties of hotels, the need to diversify the offer, and the restructuration of the ministry and its tourism management…

Studies have been made by my predecessors and we are going to keep them for the medium and long run.

Furthermore, I am convinced that we can’t isolate tourism because it is part of whole including the environment, culture, craftsmanship (Ms. Rekik is also Minister of Craftsmanship), cuisine, transportation, security.

Under the control of the Ministry of the Interior, I insist: safety is our priority. We must make decisions together.

The stability of the current government with different political orientations being represented will enable us to put in important reforms.

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Tags : bardo, Tunisia

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