Reviving tourism in Tunisia
Tourism in Tunisia is an industry that generates around 8 million arrivals per year, which makes the country among the ones that attract the most tourists in Africa. According to The New York Times, Tunisia is “known for its golden beaches, sunny weather and affordable luxuries.”
But tourism to Tunisia dried up after the country’s revolution during the Arab Spring in 2011. Terrorist attacks in Tunis and Sousse in 2015 made matters worse, prompting the UK and other European governments to advise against travel to Tunisia. The overall impact had been devastating however an improvement could be noticed in 2018.
Film tourism aids industry in Tunisia
So many reasons can be attributed to the reviving tourism industry in Tunisia but an interesting one stands out. Its known as film induced tourism. Film-induced tourism is defined as tourist visits to a destination featured on television, video, or cinema screen.
So what link does film induced tourism have with Tunisia? Well, in the mega hit space opera franchise, Star Wars, Luke Skywalker’s home planet of Tatooine’s galactic coordinates might be unknown, but Tatooine is a real place. And if you want to visit, you don’t even need to jump through hyperspace – just make your way to southern Tunisia.
‘Star Wars’ locations boost Tunisia tourism
Between 1977 and 2005, seven Tunisian cities were used as stand-ins for Tatooine, across the Star Wars films. But again the Arab Spring caused the number to drop dramatically. However, Tunisia’s Star Wars fan club joined “forces” with the Tunisian National Office for Tourism hosting official tourist events. For instance festivals such as the International Meeting of Star Wars fans caused an increase in the number of tourists and the volume of reservations in the region.
Ong Jmel lies in the southwest of Tunisia. To Star Wars fans, the location is better known as Mos Espa, where Luke Skywalker got to know the smuggler Han Solo, with whom he would embark on his adventures. It’s also where Luke’s father, Anakin Skywalker – who later became Darth Vader – was born.
For many years, tourism in these locations was booming then terrorism came to Tunisia. The regional tourism organisation CDTOS continues work to protect the film set from being forgotten and turning the region into a tourist magnet – complete with a convenience store, museum, film screenings and festivals.
Indeed, the desert of southern Tunisia could yet prove to be a goldmine.
by Nyasha K Mutizwa