People, Travel

Gun Attack Inflicts $515m Losses on Tunisia Tourism

Gun Attack Inflicts $515m Losses on Tunisia TourismGun Attack Inflicts $515m Losses on Tunisia Tourism

Tunisia announced on Tuesday emergency measures to support its vital tourism sector after the country’s worst ever attack at a popular beach resort, which is expected to wipe $515 million off the economy.

Tourism Minister Selma Elloumi Rekik said the government would provide exceptional loans to help tourism businesses this year and next after Friday’s shooting, which killed 38 people and prompted thousands of holidaymakers to flee.

“If tourism collapses ... the economy falls apart,” she told reporters.

On Friday, a Tunisian identified as 23-year-old Seifeddine Rezgui pulled a Kalashnikov assault rifle from inside a beach umbrella and opened fire on holidaymakers at a resort in Port El Kantaoui near Sousse before being shot dead.

The Islamic State militant group, which controls large swathes of Syria and Iraq, swiftly claimed the killings.

Fears are now growing the attack, the second against tourists this year, could crippple Tunisia’s tourist industry, which accounts for some 7% of GDP and employs some 400,000 people.

“We can count, at least, with regards to the impact on GDP, on a loss of earnings of a billion dinars ($515 million),” Elloumi said.

“I think that’s just the minimum, but it’s still an estimate.”

The North African country earned $1.95 billion in revenues from tourism last year.

France’s travel agencies union said 80% of package holidays booked for Tunisia in July have been canceled, with customers rushing to change destinations.

Elloumi said the government has also decided to cancel the 30-dinar ($15) exit tax for tourists, though the change can only come into effect after a parliamentary vote.

Visitors arriving in Tunisia on package tours from China, India, Iran and Jordan will now be able to obtain their visas on arrival at the airport, she added.

The government has said 1,000 more armed tourism police will patrol hotels and tourism sites, and the army reserves will also be drafted in to beef up protection.