Tourism and national development planning in Tunisia

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  • 1991. Winnipeg Free Press, 13 May 1991. 5F. Clines, Chernobyl beckons tourists to visit the radiation zone, New York Times, 4 February 1991. Op tit, Ref 4, 4 February 1991. 7lcebreaker to North Pole, New York Times, 15 July 1990. Soviet Far East from Alaska, New York

    Times, 27 October 1990. The Gazette, Montreal, 6 July 1991. L.N. Ilyina, Osnovnyye principy organi- zatsii sistemy innostrannovo nauchnovo turizma v rayonach Severa, Sibirii i Dalne- go Vostoka (Basic principles for the orga- nization of the system of scientific foreign tourism in the North, Siberia and the Far East), unpublished memorandum, 1989.

    Tourism and national development planning in Tunisia Like many other developing countries, Tunisia has expanded its international tourist industry within the framework of national development planning. This paper examines the growth of the industry from its initial stages in the 1960s to its present position as a leading sector in the Tunisian economy. A discussion of the aims and objectives of the Seventh National Development Plan (1987-91) illustrates both tourisms role in national and regional strategies and the nature of public and private sector cooperation. Finally, plans for expansion and diversification of the tourist industry are evaluated within the context of external constraints.

    International tourism has exhibited

    substantial growth in the Third World in the past 20 years with countries as diverse as the Gambia, Jamaica, Thai- land, Kenya and Vietnam seeking a share in a market expanding 4% per annum. 1 Tour operators have responded to the demand from indus- trialized countries by arranging a vari- ety of specialized and packaged holi- days to an increasing number of des- tinations. Developing countries have actively participated in this mass mar- ket to secure foreign exchange earn- ings and to develop employment opportunities. Many, however, lack an adequate infrastructure and a trained workforce-to support interna- tional tourism. Although expansion to date had been highly dependent on the private sector, Third World gov- ernments have become increasingly involved in the promotion, planning, financing and management of the tourist industry. In many developing countries, international tourism has become a key sector in national de- velopment planning.

    Tunisia epitomizes this situation. It is the smallest state in North Africa, covering an area of 153 000 km, and

    in 1990 supported a population of 8.1 million. Despite its size, it offers inter- national tourists a rich diversity of physical landscapes including the Atlas Mountains, Mediterranean coastline and Saharan desert interior. Classified by the World Bank as a lower middle-income country with a GNP per capita of $1230 in 1988, it is also one of Africas most politically stable states. This paper traces the growth of the Tunisian tourist industry since 1960 and examines the states role in this sector within the context of national development planning. The aims and objectives of the Seventh National Development Plan are evalu- ated and related to policies to expand and diversify the industry.

    History and growth

    Reports

    On independence from French rule in 1956, international tourism hardly ex- isted in Tunisia. During the 196Os, however, the industry expanded rapidly, encouraged by the formation of a government agency, SociPt6 Nationale HBteliPre et Touristique

    which became the principal investor in tourism until 1964. In the same dec- ade, the ruling Destour party adopted strong socialist policies in which the main thrust was the collectivization of agriculture. Although tourism was ex- cluded from these policies, it was an indirect beneficiary since many iand- owners withdrew capital from agricul- ture and reinvested it in the expanding tourist industry. Significantly, these socialist policies were abandoned in 1969. There followed a more liberal regime which further encouraged pri- vate investment in tourism and this strategy has continued until the pre- sent day.3

    Targets for the expansion of the tourist industry have been laid down in a succession of Five-Year National Development Plans; the Seventh Plan covered the period 1956-91 and the eighth is scheduled for presentation in 1992. As Table 1 illustrates these plans have identified tourisms role in the context of national development strategy and established targets for overall volumes of supply and de- mand, taxation levels and investment policy. In addition, the government has played an important role in plan implementation and is responsible for the overall management strategy, in- vestment in infrastructure (including internal and external transport links) and marketing policies. Most hotel accommodation has been provided by the private sector but the government

    Table 1. Objectives of the Seventh National Development Plan.

    Objective 1966 Bed capacity 99 000 Total nights in residence 12 600 000 Rates of occupation (%) 45.5 Direct employment 39 000 Cumulative investment TD 723m Receipts from tourism (annual) TD 390m

    Plan period 1991 118000 18 000 000 55.4 46 000 TD 1243m TD 797m

    TD = Tunisian Dinar (fl sterling = 1.6 dinar)

    TOURISM MANAGEMENT September 1992 331

  • Reporfs

    --- Beds available - Cumulative investment

    1400

    Year

    Figure 1. The growth of international tourism in Tunisia, 1962-91.

    has maintained strict controls over standards and is responsible for train- ing the labour force. In addition, lei- sure facilities ranging from golf courses to casinos have been financed and developed by the private sector. In contrast, the promotion of Tunisias numerous historical and cultural sites remains under governmental control.

    SUPPlY Tunisia offers the tourist a number of attractions. Mild winters and hot sum- mers combined with excellent beaches located around the Bay of Hammamet and on the islands of Jerba and Ker- kennah have encouraged the develop- ment of a number of important centres along the Mediterranean coast. Tuni- sias position as a meeting point be- tween Europe and the Arab world has provided a wealth of cultural interest based on Phoenician, Roman and Isla- mic civilizations. Internationally rec- ognized sites such as Roman Carth- age, the holy city of Kairouan and Le Bardo museuniin Tunis are important tourist attractions. Moreover, given the size of Tunisia, coastal visitors can readily include an excursion to the Saharan oases and sand dunes of in- terior Tunisia within even a short-stay package holiday.

    Data produced by the Office National du Tourisme Tunisien (ONTT) chart the progressive growth of the Tunisian tourist industry since 1960. Expansion has been based on the pro- vision of more than 500 new hotels which have increased the bed capacity

    to I I6 531 by 1990. The completion in 1991 of 24 establishments providing an additional 66SO beds has resulted in the aims of the Seventh National De- velopment Plan being exceeded (Fig- ure 1 and Table I). Classified hotel accommodation accounted for over 80% of beds in 1990, the remainder consisted of self-catering units and a small amount of unclassified accom- modation (Table 2). Large self- contained hotel complexes have been a major feature of this expansion. Consequently, the principal tourist re- sorts are dominated by hotels offering 300+ beds, usually of a 3-St&r quality, or above.

    Financing the growth of the tourist industry has resulted in a tenfold in- crease in investment since 1962, lead- ing to a cumulative investment of TD 1218 million (Tunisian Dinars) by 1991. The Seventh National Develop- ment Plan allocated TD 150 million of government funding to meet the costs of infrastructure and promotion. but expected the private sector to finance the TD 370 million required for the superstructure (Table 3). The plan anticipated that most of the private capital would be raised in Tunisia with approximately 20% coming from di- verse sources in Western Europe and the Middle East. Although investment levels have risen sharply since l98S, overall they are TD 25 million short of the Seventh Plans target of TD 1243 million of cumulative investment by 1991.

    Table 3. Investment in the tourist industry during the Seventh Plan Period, 1987-91.

    Planned Investment Tunisian Dinars (Millions)

    Infrastructure of which: roads, etc. 25 environmental conservation 10

    45

    Superstructure of which: 370 hotels 310 transport 20 leisure facilities 40

    Other of which: 105 promotion 61

    Total 520

    Demand for tourism

    Until 1991 the demand for tourism in Tunisia has exhibited a fluctuating but upward trend since 1962 with an in- crease in international arrivals from 50 000 to more than 3 000 000 in 1990. Since these figures include periodic influxes of non-tourists from neigh- bouring Arab states, the total number of nights in residence gives a more accurate indication of tourist demand. Over 18.8 million total nights in resi- dence were recorded for international visitors in 1990 which exceeds the pre- dictions of the Seventh Plan by over two million. Figure 2 shows the trends in the nationality of visitors since 19Sl. European visitors were domi- nant with three nations, Germany, France and the UK accounting for 62% of total nights in residence in 1990. Throughout the 1980s the French share of the market has stag-

    Table 2. Accommodation category and unit size 1990.

    Accommodation category

    4-star luxury 4-star 3-star Z-star 1 -star Self-catering Unclassified

    Total

    Establishment size

    Establishments Beds No No %

    15 7 106 6 30 12 868 11

    107 45 598 39 94 26 149 22 42 3 179 3 55 12 625 11

    165 9 009 a

    508 116534 100

    < 100 100-200 201-300 301-400 401-500 501-1000 > 1000

    Total

    Source: ONTT.

    266 12 968 11 69 9 868 9 28 7 067 6 27 9 429 a 35 15 719 13 69 44 662 38 14 17 091 15

    508 116534 100

    332 TOURISM MANAGEMENT September 1992

  • however, major variations in monthly occupancy rates which in 1990 ranged from 29% in January to 86% in Au- gust. High season occupancv rates have shown an encouraging (5% in- crease on average during the 1980s. LOW season rates have shown little change until January 1991 when they fell to 7% as a result of international tourists being repatriated at the out- break of the Gulf War. Since the cessation of hostilities. the Tunisian National Tourist Board has launched a major promotional campaign through- out Europe with the aim of re- establishing tourist numbers at pre- 1991 levels.

    1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991

    French ~ Other European

    German I Maghrebian

    British I Other

    Figure 2. Total nights in residence by international visitors, 1981-91.

    nated or declined in contrast to the increasing demand from other Euro- pean nations. Although visitors from the Maghreb constituted 43% of all international arrivals in 1990, they accounted for less than 3% of total nights spent in hotels in Tunisia.

    Figure 2 clearly demonstrates the repercussions of changes in the inter- national economy on the demand for tourism and shows the impact of world recession on the downturn of interna- tional visitors in the early 1980s. The sharp increase in demand in 1988, which was prompted by the 28% de- valuation of the Tunisian currency in 1986/7, was exceptional and was only partially maintained in 198Y and 1990. Most significant, however, was the 34% decline in total nights in resi- dence by overseas visitors in 1991. This fall reflected the impact of the political situation in the Middle East which resulted in the rapid repatria- tion of most tourists in January 1991. Confidence in Tunisia as a tourist des- tination returned only slowly among European visitors in 1991. However, provisional figures suggest that 1992 will witness a fuller recovery and

    bookings for the 1992193 winter season are encouraging

    Seasonality is a marked feature of the demand for tourism in Tunisia. Beach holidays dominate the reasons for visiting the country and demand is concentrated into the high season (April to October accounted for 75% of all nights in 1990), with a smaller peak around Christmas and the New Year. Length of stay fluctuates throughout the year with longer holi- days being taken between July and September. Marked contrasts also ex- ist between different groups of Euro- pean visitors: for example, Germans have the highest average length of stay (13.5 days); French, the lowest, (8.6 days).

    Occupancy rates for available tour- ist accommodation show few discerni- ble trends throughout the period 1962 to 1990 and have fluctuated between 40% and 62%. Overseas marketing by the Tunisian government has obvious- ly paid dividends and despite the rapid expansion of capacity, rates of occupa- tion for available accommodation were higher in the 1980s than those registered in the 1970s. There are,

    Tourism and national development

    Tourism has played an increasingly significant role in the Tunisian eco- nomy over the past 10 years. In con- trast to the 1970s when the country benefited from rapidly rising oil prices, the 1980s were characterized by deteriorating terms of trade and declining petroleum reserves. The ris- ing levels of external debt with the ratio of debt service to exports doub- ling from 14% to 28% in 1986 have enhanced the financial importance of the tourist industry to national de- velopment. In addition, stagnation in the agricultural sector and escalating unemployment among Tunisias pre- dominantly young population have underlined the importance of tourism as a major employer.

    Figure 3 illustrates the growth in receipts from tourism since 1962. A period of steady growth during the

    *Ooo 1 n Balance of payments defictt

    Year

    Figure 3. Receipts from tourism and contributions to balance of payments deficit, 1970-91.

    TOURISM MANAGEMENT September 1992 333

  • Reports

    - Receipts from tourism TD x 106 c cl

    --- Direct employment

    x 1200 50 ST

    g 1000 I ,, v--

    G

    .$ 800 1 I

    _/-

  • I r

    /.-

    -...

    1

    i i i j / i m Main tourist areas

    @ international airports !,

    Integrated tourism i

    complexes: i- i

    n Completed L. .

    0 Planned ./ !

    W-a Chaine hoteWe ! caravanesbrail )

    --$f . Tabarka

    Tourism Regions

    1. Tunis - Zaghouan 2. Bizerte - Tabarka 3. Nabeul- Hammamet 4. Sousse Kairouan 5. Monastir - Sfax

    .,

    \ 6. Jerba - Zarzis \ 7. Gafsa - Tozeur !

    --

    -

    .Gafsa

    7

    -_ . Kebili \

    & DOUZ

    _--_

    I I I I I I 0

    6

    Figure 5. Location of the main tourism developments in Tunisia.

    the Monastir-Sousse belt with a de- veiopment at Hergla, north of Port-el- Kantaoui. However, the largest ex- pansion is planned for the unde- veloped northern Mediterranean coast. Integrated complexes are prop- osed for Tabarka and Bizerte, served by a new international airport at Tabarka, and thus initiating the de-

    velopment of Tunisias coral coast (Figure 5).

    In parallel with these developments, enriching the tourist product has placed great emphasis on developing southern Tunisia where an arid en- vironment and a distinctive culture offer a unique tourist experience. Since 1989 the Gafsa-Tozeur region

    Table...