Although the death count is still being determined after last Friday’s terror attack in Sousse, Tunisia, it’s already apparent that the attack will also have a deadly impact on the country’s tourism industry. The North African country, whose economy is driven by tourism, is expected to suffer for years to come.
The latest attack comes after the incident in May at the Bardo National Museum in Tunis. According to Peter Herdrich, cultural-heritage consultant and founding partner of The Heritas Group in Washington, D.C., the location of the Bardo attack was very deliberate:
“The Bardo attack was absolutely designed to hit a site that [foreign travelers]would visit and I’m sure the Sousse economy is built on tourism,” said Herdrich.
“Even the most adventurous tourist is going to think twice before visiting a heritage site in Tunisia when they realize tourists are coming under attack.”
After the drastic decline in tourism following the Bardo attack, tourism and travel officials see the latest attack as the finishing blow for the industry.
Jerry Sorkin, president and founder of TunisUSA in Wayne, Pa., said the latest attack “will help put the nail in the coffin for Tunisia’s tourism at least for the next year or so; we have three groups coming in October alone and I’m bracing myself to hear their calls.”
Sorkin estimates a drop of 50 percent or more in tourist groups since the country’s Jasmine Revolution in 2011. This decline would be fatal to Tunisian tourism, a sector of the economy that funds the maintenance of cultural and heritage sites such as the Bardo Museum, Sousse Medina and Carthage.
“When the number of tourists drops, the government isn’t collecting the money it needs to manage the sites,” said Herdrich. “That means they can’t pursue efforts in regard to security, scholarship, of making sites more amenable to visitors.”