Pandemic impact on Tunisia tourism 'catastrophic'

The sector, a major employer that accounts for 14% of the nation's GDP, was hit hard by restrictions imposed to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Tunisia flag. Picture: Supplied

TUNIS - Tunisia's tourism sector has collapsed, officials warned Saturday, with earnings plunging 60% and swathes of hotels at risk of closing permanently.

The sector, a major employer that accounts for 14% of the North African nation's GDP, has been hit hard by restrictions imposed to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

"There has been a drop in tourism activities of 60%, and we could reach 70% by the end of 2020," Tourism Minister Habib Ammar told reporters.

Tunisia's income from tourism this year has totalled just 1.56 billion dinars ($563 million), officials statistics showed.

Total bed nights - the number of nights visitors stayed in hotels - dropped by 79.5%.

"The current tourism situation is very bad - if not catastrophic," said Khaled Fakhfakh, president of the Federation of Tunisian Hotels.

"Sixty percent of hotels have not opened this year and they risk not reopening, mainly because of Covid-19."

Tunisia was already battling high unemployment before the start of the pandemic.

The small Mediterranean country, with a population of around 11 million, has recorded 191 deaths from the novel coronavirus out of 14,392 cases.