Tunisia lures more Chinese tourists after visa exemption

Updated 2017-03-01 10:37:51 Xinhua

Tunisia, a North African country rich in tourism resources, has become an attractive destination after it decided to exempt entry visas for Chinese citizens since mid-February.

While the Chinese market is a potential and a strong growth, Tunisia is preparing in equipment and in service to host the Chinese clients better since they are considered as a market of hope.

On Feb. 16, Tunisia announced the visa exemption for Chinese citizens in condition that they purchase a round-trip plane ticket and a valid hotel voucher for a period not exceeding 90 days.

Wu Wenzhao, who arrived to Tunis from Beijing for a business trip, is among the first beneficiaries of this policy.

"I left the Chinese border easily after taking the boarding pass at the airline's airport counter," she said, "and it was less than a minute to enter the Tunisian territory after the landing."

The visa exemption facilitates for the Chinese to visit this country with a history of 3000 years and a colorful culture. "We can leave immediately if we have a travel plan," said Zhang Tong, a tourist from Tianjin who is participating in a circuit trip in Tunisia.

In the eyes of Guo Wei, Ms. Zhang's colleague, the cost performance is quite high the trip to Tunisia, on one hand of its charming nature, and on the other hand its multicolored culture and its multi-civilization history.

"It is located between the Mediterranean and the Sahara Desert. You can enjoy the beach, the forest, the oasis and also the mountains. In addition, one can also visit the sites from the Carthaginian, Roman, Arab, Osmanli empires and the French colonization sites," she said.

Despite its extraordinary tourist resources, following three bloody attacks that killed more than 70 victims, most of whom are foreign tourists, Tunisia has experienced in recent years a difficult period for this sector, previously considered as a vector of growth with a share close to 7 percent of GDP.

This country has gradually catch its breath since 2016, when more than 5.7 million tourists landed in Tunisia against 5.3 million in 2015.

According to Fang Yi, a manager of the China International Travel Service (CITS) in Shanghai office, those World Cultural Heritage sites in Tunisia are an asset for its tourism industry. The cultural and traditional activities would also appeal to tourists who seek exoticism and mystery.

"Thanks to its mild and humid Mediterranean climate, Tunisia could become a tourist destination in winter when it is cold in Europe, the traditional destination for Chinese", added Mrs. Fang.

Like their Chinese counterparts, Tunisian travel agencies are always ready to expand their business in the Chinese market, especially after the visa exemption.

Tunisia Welcome Service (TWS) has started its business with the Chinese clients since 2000. According to the Director General Samir Meddeb, TWS welcomed about 2000 Chinese tourists in 2016, "a year of good start." Today, the Chinese market accounts for almost half of its total turnover.

"Chinese guests are much different from the European guests who prefer taking advantage of the hotel service. But the Chinese customers have a desire to discover the history and the culture and even the gastronomy. In addition, the Chinese have a strong purchasing power and a demand for quality and private service."

Regarding this year's growth in the Chinese market, Mr. Meddeb gave a conservative estimate. "Our objective is to grow 20 percent, or 2,500 Chinese customers in 2017. We are going step by step."

However, according to Nabil Hedhiri, the head of division and Public Relations Coordinator of the Tunisian National Tourism Office (ONTT), the Chinese market would double this year, keeping the same growth as last year.

From January to December 2016 - compared with the same period in 2015 - the Tunisian tourism growth concerning the Chinese market reached 93.6 percent, or 7,396 tourists.

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