The first cruise ship in 2017 has docked in La Goulette, Tunis, Tunisia (Wednesday, January 18, 2017) according to several media reports.
The cruise ship goes by the colorful name “Viking Sea” and belongs to a Nordic company specialized in cruises. Nearly 900 tourists are on board, most of whom are Americans, according to a local radio station.
The ship brings “hope” to the Tunisian tourism sector and they wish that this will be one of many cruise ships & tourists to come.
Country Risk Assessment
Since the horrible terrorism attack in Bardo; embassies have had a tough time advising their citizens regarding travel to Tunisia . Some like the Australian embassy have sought a very “low risk tolerance” approach advising their citizens to simply “reconsider their need to travel to Tunisia because of the high threat of terrorist attack.”
Although the US embassy in Tunis was directly attacked in 2012; they have sought to maintain a more balanced risk approach. While they’ve maintained a Travel Warning for Tunisia; they have not restricted US citizens from visiting.
That being said, the US Travel Warning does warn US citizens to “avoid travel to southeastern Tunisia along the Libyan border as well as the mountainous areas in the country’s west, due to the threat of terrorism.”
Additionally, the U.S. Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens in Tunisia maintain a high level of vigilance throughout the country.
Trust in Tunisian Security Forces
Trust and collaboration are major factors in the different security risk approaches by the two countries. In the case of Australia they don’t have an Embassy or Consulate in Tunisia. On the other hand, the US views Tunisia as a key regional partner and they’ve provided a lot of assistance, training, and funds.
At the heart of the Tunisian Security Setup is the state of emergency that was declared on November 24, 2015 and still remains in effect. Under the state of emergency, security forces have more authority to maintain civil order, enabling the government to focus on combating terrorism.
Even more to the point, the state of emergency also assists in securing hotels and touristic areas.
Proceed with Caution
While it is encouraging to think that Tunisia is on its way to recovery; we should proceed with caution. The British embassy travel warning underscores this point. The Foreign Office currently advises ‘against all but essential travel’ to Tunisia with the advice being upped to ‘against all travel’ in some areas due to the threat of terrorism.
The Sousse attack in 2015 significantly changed the threat landscape in Tunisia. It also taught travelers a valuable lesson:
Before traveling do your Due Diligence!
According to LBC: “Websites Expedia, TripAdvisor, Kayak, LastMinute, Trivago and Hotels.com all offer hotel accommodation in Tunisia without any mention of the Foreign Office advice.” The article states that this means: “your travel insurance won’t cover you if you are caught in an attack.”
The bottom line is that travelers & expats must learn the lessons from Sousse and make sure they are engaged with the security situation.
Organizations operating in Tunisia need to do this and much more. They need to remain proactive with their security measures and not wait for another major attack to conduct audits and point fingers.
Hopefully the Viking Sea will usher in a year Safe Touristic Season. The stakes are high for Tunisian Security Forces as the whole country relies on them to deter, detect, and defend their home land.