Last week, a group of entrepreneurs from Europe and MENA region came to Tunisia to participate in an entrepreneurship camp. Apart from sharing knowledge and learning from their entrepreneurship experiences, it was also an opportunity for me to see closely what foreign visitors think about Tunisia and how they find it…I did my best to help them live the best experiences they can have and to let them keep a good image about the country and its citizens. Here I wanted to share with you the most things I came out with after being close to some of them during their visit:

1. There was no fear of terrorism

We all agree that the two terrorist attacks that took place this year in Tunisia were a disaster for the tourist season. International media was talking about it for some time and some countries asked its citizens to not visit Tunisia. All of this made me expect a certain feeling of insecurity from my foreign friends especially the European ones. To my surprise, this is not what happened! Actually, they were ready to go out alone discovering the place and had no problem doing that. When we went to Medina, they preferred to stay alone and they came back alone to the hotel…Is it because most of them were German and media in Germany didn’t play the same role as Media in France and UK did? Is it because they are entrepreneurs and don’t have time to follow the news? Is it because Tunisians are so welcoming so that they gave them a feeling of safety? I don’t know…in addition, although Sousse was a scene of a horrible terrorist attack, many friends especially the ones from Middle East expressed their interest to go to Sousse. I don’t know if they knew about the terrorist attack or not, or they wanted to visit the place while they know what happened…

2. Tounes is “Tounes El Khadhra”

“Tounes El Khadhra” is the first thing that comes to most of Arab visitors’ mind when you ask them what is Tunisia for you or what idea do you have about Tunisia. It is a positioning that “Mahmoud Darwish” offered us but still, we didn’t use it effectively and we didn’t do anything to promote it. For many Arab friends, Tunisia is really green but for others it is green but not green as they expected. So why not investing more in green places and work on that slogan? Maybe we can attract more tourists from the Middle East.

3. Tunisian dialect is very rich

Something I also noticed when talking in Tunisian Dialect in front of my friends from Jordan, Egypt and Morocco, is that in every new discussion they learn a new word although I wanted to express the same meaning I expressed in a previous discussion. For example to describe something you like in a conversation a Tunisian can say “mizyéna”, in another conversation he/she say “tayara”, in another one “heyla”, in other ones “7louwa”, “to9tel”, “mesh normal”, “yécer fort”…

4. Many Taxis are profiteers

Unfortunately some taxis seem waiting for a foreign person to get in to make their deal of the month. It seems that for them, any foreign person (even if he/she is from the Middle East) is someone who is ready to pay what the taxi asks. My friends were disappointed of taxi drivers who were not using the counter and charging a lot of money and from others who were using it but cheating and multiplying the real taxi fare. Unfortunately, many taxi drivers are not aware of their responsibility in the tourist experience but fortunately there are also a lot of taxi drivers who were honest and kind to my friends.

To conclude, I was very happy to know that my friends enjoyed staying here although all the bad things that happened to them and that they are grateful to the Tunisian people they met during their travel. I was also very glad seeing them sharing their stories and the beautiful pictures about Tunisia on social media. Of course they were surprised of the full cafes during the morning and they think that customer service has to be better but they consider that Tunisia has a great potential, a specific culture and a great history that is not well exploited…One of them told me that she finds Tunis as a mix of different countries (Old European buildings in Tunis centre, Khan el Khalili of Egypt in the Medina and Beirut mountains with the see in SidiBousaid). Their visit encouraged me to think more about doing something in the alternative tourism 🙂

by Ahmed Hadhri