Revenue from Tunisia’s tourism industry is up 11 per cent so far this year, according to central bank figures released in August. Some 6.7 million visitors made their way there in 2007 and the government has said it expects tourism income growth of 8 per cent overall this year.
The country began developing its tourism industry four decades ago and the industry is now its main foreign currency earner and the biggest employer after the labour intensive agricultural sector. The bulk of visitors are from the euro zone, but the government is also eyeing wealthy Gulf holidaymakers, together with the Chinese market, to swell numbers.
Tunisian government economic reforms and recent legislation have been responsible for a new tourism property development boom, following valuable lessons learned from near neighbours Egypt and Morocco. And now with its 1,100 kilometres of Mediterranean coastline, pristine beaches and a well established tourism industry which is on target for an average annual growth rate of 4.3 per cent over the next decade, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, Tunisia has everything in place to build a healthy property market based largely on tourism.
Tunisia’s economy has been ranked the most competitive in Africa and the Arab World in the Global Competitiveness Report from the World Economic Forum, and the International Monetary Fund predicts impressive GDP growth for the coming years, making the nation’s growth predictions one of the highest in the Mediterranean region. Now, serious investors are beginning to turn their collective and focused attentions on the country, and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is on the rise, up 60 per cent year on year in the first quarter of 2008.
Indeed, the real estate Company of Dubai Holding, Sama Dubai, is investing $14 billion for the construction of a new city on the banks of the southern Lake of Tunis with residential districts, seaside resorts, luxurious hotel complexes, multidisciplinary buildings, quays for yachts as well as sporting and cultural spaces. The installation of this mega project will create nearly 140 thousand direct job opportunities, with priority granted to Tunisian nationals.
Meanwhile the giant Emirati Bukhatir Group is creating a 255 hectare City of Sports which will comprise a golf course as well as nine sporting academies dedicated to football, volley ball, basketball, handball, tennis, swimming, athletics and other disciplines.
Some 36 hectares will be devoted to physical education including a football stadium that has room for 10,000 spectators, and an Olympic swimming pool.
Not to be outdone, Emirati investments company Al Maabar is building an integrated modern city, notably residences, tourist centres, recreational, commercial and sporting spaces, as well as parks and open spaces in the city of Ariana. The project also envisages the adjustment of 50 kilometres of beaches in the form of waterways inside the city and a passage towards the Mediterranean.