Interview with Mohamed Ali Chihi, Ambassador of Tunisia to Russia with Natalia Andronova

Innova

What are your forecasts for 2019 tourist season?

Do you expect that the number of tourists from Russia will increase this year? What pleasant surprise could tourists expect in Tunisia?

– Building on the achievements attained in 2018, prospects for 2019 and 2020 tourist seasons are very promising. In fact, we are waiting for 10 million tourists in 2020.

As far as Russia is concerned, more than 600.000 tourists visited Tunisia in 2018, more is expected in the upcoming years. According to airlines’ bookings, the number of Russians to visit Tunisia this year may reach 750.000. Further on we work to achieve 1 million Russian tourists in 2020.

Natalia Andronova i Mohamed Ali Chihi

Tunisian authorities are aware of the challenges and doing their utmost to meet the needs and expectations of tourists. Efforts are concentrated on improving services and diversifying products and markets.

As for products, three main sectors have been developed:

– Medical tourism: Top modern clinics and highly qualified staff in all specialties with favorable cost/quality ratio. Thalassotherapy and thermal spa based on natural mineral-hot water (Tunisia is the second destination in the world on this respect).

Natalia Andronova i Mohamed Ali Chihi
Natalia Andronova i Mohamed Ali Chihi

– Cultural, conference and sport tourism: outstanding heritage and monuments that witnessed the greatness of many civilizations (Carthage, El Jem Amphitheatre, Jugurth’s table,…), luxury and well equipped hotels to satisfy all the requirements and guarantee the success of meetings, ceremonies and international congress. Also all the facilities are offered for teams and groups to practice every kind of sport and leisure activity in a wonderfully hospitable nature, such as windsurfing, tennis, golf, etc …

– Religious tourism: is the new sector to be developed by competent authorities as Tunisia is an open and tolerant country that hosts all religions through its history. The ancient El Ghriba synagogue, located at the island of Djerba, is a site of pilgrimage for thousands of Jews every year.

Christianity had appeared in Tunisia since the Roman times, many Christian monuments and churches still exist in Tunisia.

For more than 14 centuries, Islam is the main religion of Tunisian people. Kairouan as well as Zitouna university are the glory centers of knowledge and Islamic learning across the Maghreb and the whole Islamic world.

As for source markets, it is true that Europeans were for a long time the traditional tourists in Tunisia. Now and since the last few years Tunisia has opened its tourism industry to new markets such as Russia and China as well as others countries.
Russia is becoming in just a few years one of the most important market for Tunisian tourism. There are big opportunities to increase the influx of Russians tourists by encouraging winter tourism. Prospects in this respect are huge.

Do preferences of travelers change? What resorts in Tunisia are now most popular? What types of tourist holidays are in most demand by tourists in Tunisia?

– For long time, coastal tourism along the beaches of the county has been the basis of the tourism industry in Tunisia as well as in the other countries of the Mediterranean. But for years, Tunisian authorities have made efforts to create alternative attractions and recreation areas to benefit from alternative products such as Thalassa, cultural, historical and desert tourism.

Natalia Andronova i Mohamed Ali Chihi

Consequently, today we witness demand evolution. For example sightseeing tours have become so popular for Russian tourists, we are working to offer other products for them, namely, winter tourism, sport tourism, etc. …

What would you call a brand, a business card of Tunisia?

– Throughout a history of 3000 years, Tunisia has been the country of great civilizations, diversified cultures and beautiful monuments. Also, with more than 164.000 square kilometers of beach, desert, mountains, woods and steppes, Tunisia have all the advantages to be a very attractive destination for tourists.

Moreover, since the beginning of the 1960s, Tunisian government with the partnership of private operators has done its best to create a tourism industry and develop the richness of these historical and natural resources. Today Tunisia is named among the best touristic destinations in Africa and the Mediterranean region. And to cite a well reputed international media, Tunisia is “known for its golden beaches, sunny weather and affordable luxury”.

Natalia Andronova i Mohamed Ali Chihi

Let me name just a few of tourist attractions: cosmopolitan capital city of Tunis, the ancient ruins of Carthage, the Muslim and Jewish quarters of Jerba, coastal resorts outside Monastir. But Tunisia is also an attractive destination due to its huge number of important festivals such as International Festival of Carthage which is the most important festival in the Arab world hosting stars and bands from all over the world, Tabarka Jazz Festival.

For all those mentioned Tunisia offers the best price/ quality ratio in the region.

Why would you advise tourists to opt for a holiday in your county? What will they remember from the trip?

– With all its advantages to offer for tourists Tunisia could easily meet the diverse needs and desires of foreign tourists aiming to have memorable holiday.

Natalia Andronova i Mohamed Ali Chihi
Natalia Andronova i Mohamed Ali Chihi

Today event tourism is actively developing. What holidays, festivals in Tunisia, in your opinion, are the most interesting ones for tourists?

– As I mentioned, there is a great number of festivals especially in summer in almost every town and city.

So, in Tunisia tourists will surely find all that is necessary for a rest and perfect tranquility: beaches with fine sand, the sun as well as thalassic centers. Tunisia is the world’s second largest destination for thalassotherapy. Russian tourists are pleasantly surprised at the price-quality ratio offered by our thalassotherapy.

Natalia Andronova i Mohamed Ali Chihi

Tunisia is famous for shopping. What gifts or purchases would you advise to bring home from Tunisia?

– There is a variety of products especially handicraft products characteristic of each region in Tunisia. Also, industrial an agro products are available for good prices in the souks: perfumery, thalassotherapy products, traditional clothing, cookware, ceramics, blacksmithing, blowing, tapestry etc.

I can also recommend to discover the Tunisian tattoo which is not permanent and called the harkous. Its smell is beautiful because the ink is made of natural products, the drawings are refined. Tunisian women use it to look beautiful on special occasions – weddings, big parties.

Natalia Andronova i Mohamed Ali Chihi

Is Russia of interest to people of Tunisia? Do they travel to Russia for tourist purposes? What attracts Tunisian is Russia?

– Since the last FIFA Cup in 2018, when some 25.000 Tunisian spectators attended the matches of the Tunisian national team in Volgograd, Moscow and Saransk, Russia is becoming more and more popular among Tunisian people. We have already recorded some organized trips to Russia besides the private visits.

As you know there are more than 4000 Tunisians living in Russia for study and work, the majority of them are married with Russian partner.

This number could easily increase if obtaining Russian visa would be made easier and opportunities for studying will be available.

The publication is prepared by brand.travel editorial office

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