Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

Cruises return to Tunisia after a two-year hiatus

Written by Frédéric Dubessy on Tuesday, February 1st 2022 à 16:05 | Read 470 times

The Goulette cruise terminal will resume service (photo: F.Dubessy)
The Goulette cruise terminal will resume service (photo: F.Dubessy)
TUNISIA. The Tunisian Ministry of Tourism and Handicrafts unveiled on Monday 31 January 2022 in a press release the return of cruises to the port of La Goulette, near Tunis. This activity had been put on hold for more than two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The MS Amera (Phoenix Reisen) is, to date, the last cruise ship to have docked in the Tunisian port. This was on 14 November 2019. It was carrying 648 passengers, mainly German.

According to the Ministry of Tourism and Handicrafts, thirty-eight cruise ships are already scheduled to dock at the port of La Goulette in 2022. Provided that the improvement of the sanitary situation continues. The first ship is expected on 23 March 2022.

During a working meeting with the professionals of the sector, Mohamed Moez Belhassine, the Tunisian Minister of Tourism and Handicrafts, indicated that he was preparing to ensure all the necessary conditions for the reception of the various cruise ships. The latter contribute to the revival of the tourist and commercial activities, in particular at the level of the traditional industries and tourist transport, as well as museums, archaeological sites, restaurants, and other tourist, cultural and economic activities, he specified.

Multiple crises hinder a new cruise boom

In June 2021, MSC Cruises had announced its return to Tunisia after seven years of absence for 2022. Its executive chairman, Pierfrancesco Vago, planned twenty-seven calls in this country between April and October of this year. But, at the time of writing, of the ninety seven Mediterranean itineraries proposed by the Swiss company, only two include a stopover in the port of La Goulette (28 April and 5 May with the MSC Opera). And for the moment, none at the port of Zarzis (South-East of the country) whose integration into the programme was being studied at the time by MSC.

Created in 2007, the Goulette Cruise Terminal (Goulette Shipping Cruise - GSC) and its two 657 metre berths with a draught of 10 metres, finalised in 2010, should have encouraged a new cruise boom. Then came the revolution of 2011. Since then, this sector has struggled to regain its former traffic, slowed down by the numerous crises it has suffered on a regular basis and which have called everything into question each time. Interrupted during the first months of 2011, traffic resumed at the end of April with the Aida Bella (Aida Cruises) and the Eurodam (Holland America Line) and its 2200 and 2170 passengers respectively. But in 2011, out of the 414 scheduled calls, 359 were cancelled.

Tunisia welcomed 227 calls and 582 000 cruise passengers in 2012 against 406 and 896 000 passengers in 2010, the reference year.
In March 2015, the attack on the Prado Museum in Tunis was another setback. This tragedy caused the death of twenty passengers visiting this tourist attraction and the withdrawal of MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises from the Tunisian market.

The activity had only timidly resumed in October 2016 with the arrival of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and its 350-passenger liner Europa, after a year of stoppage. In 2020, it was the Covid-19 pandemic that left the Tunisian cruise terminal idle again.


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