Tunisians are jubilant. Closed due to a pandemic since March 2019, the land borders with Algeria reopened on July 15. A breath of fresh air for tourism, but also for trade and state coffers. Since that date, 60,000 have come to spend their holidays in Tunisia.
“Not only, I also have family that I haven’t seen for two years,” says Djamal Saadi, from Tebessa, who toured his relatives and friends before packing his bags in Nabeul with his wife. and his two sons. “I hesitated to come, he concedes. I was afraid that social unrest would spoil my vacation”, referring to a possible dispute after the July 25 referendum. This risk having been ruled out, the Tunisian authorities are expecting a large number of arrivals for the month of August and are aiming for one million visitors, below the record number of 2019, when 3 million Algerians chose Tunisia as a destination.
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Tunisian tourism has been affected by the absence of Algerians over the last two high seasons. The welcome banners “in their second country” placed at the border posts are only one of the signs of Tunisia’s desire to put on a big show by recalling the historical links between the two neighbours.
Algerians are thus exempt from pounding and fines in the event of incorrect parking and are no longer forced to produce a PCR test when leaving Tunisian soil. An attitude that makes Jamila smile, a teacher from Constantine accustomed to the beaches of Sousse since 2005: “These are appreciable little attentions but where do you want the average Algerian to go? Between skyrocketing prices, visas impossible to obtain and the closing of western borders, there remains Tunisia, which has always welcomed us. »
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Even if the arrival of Algerian tourists relieves the Tunisian tourist sector somewhat, the latter continues to bear the full brunt of the consequences of the war between Russia and Ukraine, two of its emerging markets.
In Tabarka, Riadh, who runs a tobacco shop in the city center, is delighted. “The most important flow of passage passes through Melloula, five minutes from here. Once the border is crossed, the coffee break in Tabarka is an almost traditional stopover and small businesses take advantage of it. In Sousse, Fathi, owner of the eponymous supermarket, agrees. He knows the Algerian clientele well and is keen to satisfy their requests: “At home they will find equipment for the beach but also school supplies. They are great customers and enjoy shopping in Tunisia. »
Unlike European tourists, Algerians consume Tunisian, prefer apartment rentals to hotels and are not fussy about expenses. “It’s the holidays, they’ve been thinking about it all year and don’t quibble in a restaurant or in a clothing store,” recalls Afif, a restaurant owner in Midoun (Djerba), where Algerians are rare, unlike Libyans – the island is 3 hours drive from Tripoli.
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But Fathi notes that some of his customers complain about the quality of service. “We have been forced to recruit seasonal workers without complete training to compensate for the departure of many of our employees for fixed-term contracts in France and Italy”, concedes a manager of Royal Mansour, in Mahdia. The establishment has been pinned on the networks for the mediocrity of its service and its little varied buffet.
For health too
Of course, all tourists are housed in the same boat, Tunisians residing abroad too. “We pay full price for services that cost 349 euros per week and we are poorly served,” says a newlywed couple from Paris who finally opted for a guest house in Hammamet. Our Algerian friends are treated more kindly…”
“Hiccups of getting back on the road”, relativizes an Algiers who arrived by collective taxi from Algiers. Friends will join him to set sail for Hammamet, which remains the favorite seaside resort of Algerians on the go. Others will use their time in Tunisia for medical checks.
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“Medical skills, the speed of care and the availability of caregivers is an asset, we come from far away for that”, assures an Oranoise near a renowned clinic in Tunis. A strong point that will help maintain the flow of visitors from Algeria outside period summer.