A cruise ship docked in port in Tunisia on Wednesday, March 23, for the first time since 2019, carrying 700+ passengers and good news for operators battered by the COVID crisis.
The Spirit of Discovery, owned by Saga UK, arrived at Port La Goulette/Tunis City where she was welcomed by camels and a band performing traditional Tunisian music.
The vessel was carrying 724 guests, mostly British but also Italian, Spanish, and German according to Tourism Minister Moez Belhassen who said the Spirit of Discovery was the first of at least 40 cruise ships expected to dock in Tunis in 2022.
After 2 disastrous seasons, the Tunisian authorities are hoping to bring tourist numbers and spending back to 60% of 2019 levels, the best season since the 2011 revolution in Tunisia.
In normal years, tourism makes up ~14% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and provides a living for 2M Tunisians, ~6th of the population.
The tourism industry has suffered a number of crises since the 2011 revolt that inspired revolutions across the Arab world. Back in 2015, Islamic State group-linked militants waged attacks at key tourist hotspots.
The sector had begun to recover when the COVID crisis and the ensuing lockdowns sent visitor numbers tumbling by ~80%.