Tunisia expect record number of tourists, up to nine million in 2019

TUNIS, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Tunisia expects tourist visits to reach 9 million for the first time next year, as the country’s tourism industry recovers following an attack at a beach resort in 2015, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said on Monday.

About 6.2 million tourists visited Tunisia in the first nine month of this year, up 16.9 percent from the same period of last year, in a rebound from the impact of the 2015 attack.

Tunisia expects tourist visits to reach 8 million for all of 2018, the prime minister said.

“We hope that this recovery continues and to see about 9 million tourists in 2019,” Chahed told Parliament.

Major European tour operators have started to return to Tunisia, after three years of shunning the country following the attack on a beach in Sousse that killed 39 tourists and a separate attack at the Bardo National Museum in Tunis that killed 2.

Tourist visits in 2017 were up 23 percent on the previous year to 7 million, as hotels filled with Russian and Algerian visitors, but operators say they spend less than European holidaymakers.

Tourism accounts for 8 percent of Tunisia’s gross domestic product. A return of European visitors would give a strong boost to the struggling economy and raise the country’s weak foreign currency reserves. (Reporting by Tarek Amara Editing by Leslie Adler)