Travel: Tunisia - should you still go?

Camels in the desert in Tunisia
Camels in the desert in Tunisia

Although not until the end of this year, the upcoming release of the latest Star Wars film has already been causing a stir. Tunisia, where four of the early films were shot, was no doubt hoping to piggy back on the renewed interest in George Lucas’ cult epic.

Although not until the end of this year, the upcoming release of the latest Star Wars film has already been causing a stir. Tunisia, where four of the early films were shot, was no doubt hoping to piggy back on the renewed interest in George Lucas’ cult epic.

But hopes for a tourism boom are rapidly ebbing away following the recent Isis attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunis. Of the 23 people killed in the horrific shooting, 19 were tourists, and the episode clearly demonstrated that holidaymakers are now a target for radical groups.

A number of cruise ships call into the Tunisian capital, although many are now rethinking their routes. Both Costa Cruises and MSC, who lost guests in the attack, both pulled out immediately, and have altered their itineraries for the rest of the season. Cruise Critic reports that Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, Star Clippers, AIDA and Holland America have all followed suit.

Other companies due to visit Tunisia this year - P&O Cruises, Oceania and Princess Cruises - are all monitoring the situation carefully.

It’s a huge blow for a country where one in 10 people are employed in tourism.

Reports suggest that holidaymakers were slowly regaining confidence in Tunisia following the 2011 overthrow of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali which sparked the Arab Spring. Travel association ABTA said visitor figures for the British market were up last year, with 424,000 people visiting. But the future of tourism could now be in jeopardy.

The Foreign Office currently warns of a “high threat from terrorism, including kidnapping” but does not advise against travel to Tunis. Popular package holiday companies Thomson and First Choice, who sell holidays mainly to the coastal areas, have temporarily suspended day tours to the capital and are keeping an eye on any developments.