Tunisia tourism revenues jump as Europeans return

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TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisia’s tourism revenues grew by 40 percent in the first half of 2018 compared to the same period last year, the government said Thursday, driven by a strong return of European tourists three years after they were targeted in militant attacks.

After shunning Tunisia in the wake of 2015 gun attacks on a beach in Sousse that killed 39 tourists and one at the Bardo National Museum in Tunis that killed 21, major European tour operators have started to return this year.

The recovery from the attacks claimed by Islamic State has prompted officials to predict a record season with eight million tourists expected for the first time.

Some 3.229 million tourists visited Tunisia from Jan. 1 through to June 30, up 26 percent from the same period last year, official figures seen by Reuters showed. Tourist revenues climbed 40 percent to reach $522 million.

European visitors grew by 60 percent to reach 900,000 while Algerian tourists grew by 18 percent to about 900,000 to remain the top national market for Tunisia.

The number of French tourists increased by 50 percent to 300,000, Germans rose by 60 percent to 100,000, while Russians were up by 48 percent to about 220,000, figures showed.

A return of European visitors would give a strong boost to the struggling economy and support the country’s weak currency.

The 8 million forecast would bring tourist numbers above the pre-attack level of 7.1 million seen in 2014. Arrivals fell to 5.3 million in 2015 and reached 7 million in 2017.

Reporting By Tarek Amara