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Democracy and its consequences - A Case Study of Tunisia

Democracy and its consequences - A Case Study of Tunisia
Author: Claudia Nass
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You can see it all over the news- countries of North Africa have started the fight for democracy and against dictatorships. The populations of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya want freedom in their countries and started rebelling against the government. But what do you think are the consequences for the tourism industry of the affected country? This discussion paper is going to investigate how democracy is causing danger for the economical sector using the example of Tunisia.

Every human has the 'right to travel' the world without limitations. Holiday destinations such as Tunisia, profit from it because approximately seven million international tourists visited the country every year from 2008 until 2010. Overall, Tunisia generates 7 percent of the gross domestic product only with the tourism industry which as a result is very important for the economy of the country in general. Tunisia is a popular destination to travel to because it promotes itself as a modern country that has light European influences but still has the charm of the Orient. When the tourism industry of Tunisia started booming in the 1960´s only 4,000 beds have been available for tourists. This number increased to 15,000 in 1987 and 238,400 in 2008. The growth of bed capacities illustrate the fast development and increasing tourist numbers Tunisia was facing. Furthermore, the country has implemented the '2000 Standards' which classify all hotels of Tunisia and as a result helped to create more luxury hotels. To improve the service quality, hospitality education programs have been conducted which trained the 400,000 Tunisians working within the tourism industry. The Republic of Tunisia is targeting European tourists from the social middle and upper class because of the foreign currencies they bring into the country. This is important because it ensures the increasing amount of financial resources which than can be used for other economic sectors.

When the 'Jasminrevolution' started at the 17th of December 2010, after Mohammed Buazizis was catching fire under unclear circumstances, the population of Tunisia started to demonstrate against the dictator Zine el Abidine Bin Ali who ruled the country since 1987. The Tunisians have been frustrated from the 60 percent of youth unemployment, the restricted freedom of speech and press, the censoring of the internet, election fraud and violence against the governmental opposition. The uprising of the population did last over a period of one month and caused the death of approximately 70 demonstrators which have been shot or strike dead by the army. At the 13th of January 2011 president Bin Ali undertook the last attempt to strengthen his power by announcing that he is willing to think about a long-term recession from his office. Moreover, he wanted to implement new reforms to improve the economical and political condition of Tunisia. This last attempt failed and Bin Ali did flee to Saudi Arabia. The former dictator is now accused of election fraud, embezzlement of government money as well as murder and torture of prisoners, regime opponents and demonstrators.

Overall this is a great development for the country of Tunisia from a dictatorship towards democracy. But what if you have a look at the consequences for the tourism industry? The revolution in Tunisia caused the loss of 39 percent of incoming tourists which results in decreasing revenue of 51 percent according to the Tunisian tourism authority. Moreover, 3,000 Tunisians working in the tourism sector lost their jobs because of the lack of visitors. This increases the number of unemployed Tunisians even further and made the living conditions harder.

One example of companies that have suffered from the fight for democracy is the tour operator Thomas Cook. When the unrests started in Tunisia Thomas Cook Germany and Great Britain have been the first bringing back their customers. Therefore, aircrafts were send to Tunisia in order to bring home 2000 German and 1800 British tourists. Afterwards, the company cancelled all flights to Tunisia until the 17th of January. The fight for democracy in this case almost caused Thomas Cook to fail. The reasons were the additional costs for the aircrafts, paying compensations to customers as well as the booking cancelations for Tunisia. As a result of the disastrous financial year, only a deal over £ 1.2 billion with 17 different banks could prevent the bankruptcy of the tour operator. Normally Thomas Cook generates annual revenue of £ 9 billion. In 2011, the company notified a loss of £ 398 million. In order to balance the losses the tour operator sold its hotel chain 'Hotels Y Clubs De Vacaciones' to Iberostar for £ 61 million and closed down 200 stores. Furthermore, the company´s aircraft fleet has been diminished by 6 planes and 500 hotels have been removed from the product portfolio. The company shares have dropped 75 percent.

The case study of Tunisia shows that because of insurgencies and the uprising population the economy of the country had to suffer from dramatic losses of financial resources. Especially the tourism sector had to deal with decreasing revenues due to the loss of incoming tourists. When analysing and comparing the development of democracy with the consequences for the tourism industry it becomes clear that democracy is a danger especially for tourism related businesses such as hotels, tour operator and restaurants as the example of Thomas Cook showed. In order to find out whether or not these are long-term implications further investigations would be necessary.


Bianchi, R. (2006) Tourism and the globalisation of fear: Analysing the politics of risk and (in)security in global travel. Tourism and Hospitality Research. Vol. 7 (1), pp. 64-74

Cortéz-Jiménez, I. (2011) Mass beach tourism and economic growth: lessens from Tunisia. Tourism Economics. 17(3), pp. 531-547

Topham, G. (2012) Thomas Cook´s £1.2 bn lifeline. The Guardian. Business. April 8 [online]. Available from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/apr/08/thomas-cook-refinance-deal [Accessed on 27 April 2012].