People, Travel

Controversial Campaign Aims to Promote Tunisia Tourism

Controversial Campaign Aims to Promote Tunisia TourismControversial Campaign Aims to Promote Tunisia Tourism

These are the vivid images one Tunisian marketing expert hopes will persuade tourists to carry on visiting his country.

The ‘would you stop visiting’ advertising project includes graphic images of New York’s 9/11 attack, the 7/7 London bombings and a ‘Je suis Charlie’ poster designed after the massacre at Charlie Hebdo’s office in Paris, along with the caption “Support Tunisia - Land of Peace”, eTurbonews reports.

The campaign, sparked from the attack in Sousse over a week ago which saw an Islamist gunman kill 39 people, has received both praise and criticism.

The creator of the campaign, Selim Ben Hadj Yahia, who works for PR firm Ramdam. in, reportedly said he posted the images on Facebook in the hope they spoke to “Tunisia’s friends around the world in the shock and sadness” of the Sousse attack.

The photos have been divisive, with some Internet users pointing out that tourists were targeted in the beach massacre, as well as in the gun battle at the Bardo Museum in Tunis this March, in which 21 people died. However, the photos have also been praised for pointing out that terrorist attacks have indeed happened outside of Tunisia.

“The aim was clearly to send a strong signal, mainly to our friends in Europe, so as not to give in to panic,” Yahia said.

The campaign – which was not endorsed by the Tunisian Ministry of Tourism – was not created for an agency client or for profit. Yahia – whose work usually focuses on political crisis communications rather than tourism – said that his intention was rather to convey hope and willingness.

The tourism industry had been recovering after the Arab Spring unrest, and Tunisia had become a popular lower-cost beach holiday spot for Europeans.

Last year, 2.8 million travelled there, edging closer towards the 3.8 million level seen in 2010 before the uprising, according to statistics.

UK travel companies, including Thomson and First Choice, have flown back almost 6,000 tourists from Tunisia on 40 flights over the last week.

Industry experts have said Westerners staying away from Tunisia for security reasons may be unwilling to switch to countries such as Turkey, which borders war-torn Syria, and Egypt, where there has been social and political unrest in recent years.

Tourism is a significant source of income for Tunisia, representing about 7% of GDP. Some 425,000 British citizens visited the country in 2014, with most visits trouble free.