In recent years Tunisia’s tourism sector has turned increasingly towards the domestic market, with 50% of hotel occupancy coming from Tunisian nationals; allowing the sector a 20% increase in overnight stays. The stability of the domestic market, in addition to government-facilitated specialty rates for domestic citizens seeking accommodation, have enabled the sector to remain buoyant.
While the foreign market has fluctuated heavily in the years since 2015, domestic tourism has maintained its stability. Domestic tourism spending rose 30.8% in nominal terms between 2010 and 2017, rising from TD3.9bn (€1.5bn) to TD5.1bn (€1.96bn).
With a rapidly increasing population, the country has favourable demographics for maintaining this growing market. The government has recognised the significance of the domestic sphere and established policies designed to support it. In 2017 officials allocated a budget of TD950,000 (€365,000) aimed at further promoting internal tourism to the domestic audience, a 3.8% increase over funding provided in 2016.
In addition to new markets like Russia and China, domestic tourism has helped compensate for the 5.3% drop in spending by international tourists in 2016. For instance, while foreign spending failed to positively recover in 2016, the domestic market increased by 4.4% .
Indeed, domestic tourism made up 53.7% of all sectoral spending in 2017, contributing TD5.1bn (€1.96bn) to the Tunisian economy. Furthermore, the foreign tourism market is now recovering, with 2017 producing positive figures in terms of foreign spending, which grew 15.1% to TD4.36bn (€1.67bn). This boosted the Tunisian hotel industry despite the fact that domestic tourists do not stay in hotel accommodation at the same rates as foreign holidaymakers.
Between January and the end of June 2017 the number of overnight stays booked by Tunisian residents increased 20.3% over the same period in 2016. This increase amounted to 2.01m stays, which surpassed that of the same period of 2014, when Tunisian residents booked 1.9m overnight stays.
The Tunisian Federation of Hoteliers says that the rise in the domestic tourism rate in Tunisia reflects customer satisfaction with the accommodation offering. In April 2016 a survey of 1500 Tunisian domestic tourists indicated that 84% of clients were satisfied.
Tunisian nationals have benefitted from special rates, which reduce the price of accommodation up to 50% in order to encourage tourism within the country. Such projects have increased numbers across the country. For example, in the region of Monastir Skanes domestic tourism grew 34% in terms of new arrivals and nights spent in hotels increased 67% over the course of 2017.
Domestic tourism also increased by 42% in the region of Mahdia between January and June 2017. Furthermore, Salma Elloumi Rekik, the minister of tourism, confirmed in March 2018 that hotels would continue to offer special deals to the domestic market.
The opening of an amusement park in Sfax in August 2017 also presents an opportunity for the region to bolster its domestic tourism intake. At 18,000 sq metres and costing TD22m (€8.5m), Sfax Land was developed by Zinadi Entertainment, a subsidiary of Lebanese company Zinadi Holding, which specialises in the creation of amusement parks in the MENA region. Intended to fill the entertainment gap in the south of the country, the park is marketed particularly towards local families. According to local media, the project is to be followed by the construction of additional amusement and water parks in the region of Djerba Zarzis.
Domestic tourism in Tunisia has been integral in keeping the industry afloat during the lull in activity arising from the European market. While European visitor numbers are rebounding and tourism from emerging economies and neighbouring states is on the up, internal tourism will continue to be an important part of the sector in 2018 and beyond.
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