Tunisia attack set to wipe $500 million off economy
TUNIS - Tunisia on Monday announced emergency measures to support its vital tourism sector after the country's worst ever jihadist attack at a popular beach resort, which is expected to wipe $500 million off the economy.
Tourism Minister Selma Elloumi Rekik said the government would provide exceptional loans to help tourism businesses this year and next after Friday's shooting, which killed 38 people and prompted thousands of holidaymakers to flee.
"If tourism collapses... the economy falls apart," she told reporters.
On Friday, a Tunisian identified as 23-year-old Seifeddine Rezgui pulled a Kalashnikov assault rifle from inside a beach umbrella and opened fire on holidaymakers at a resort in Port El Kantaoui near Sousse before being shot dead.
The Islamic State jihadist group, which controls large swathes of Syria and Iraq, swiftly claimed the killings.
Fears are now growing the attack, the second against tourists this year, could cripple Tunisia's tourist industry, which accounts for some seven percent of GDP and employs some 400,000 people.
"We can count, at least, with regards to the impact on Gross Domestic Product (GDP), on a loss of earnings of a billion dinars ($515 million, 460 million euros)," Elloumi said.
"I think that's just the minimum, but it's still an estimate."
France's travel agencies union said 80 percent of package holidays booked for Tunisia in July have been cancelled, with customers rushing to change destinations.
Elloumi said the government has also decided to cancel the 30-dinar exit tax for tourists, though the change can only come into effect after a parliamentary vote.
Visitors arriving in Tunisia on package tours from China, India, Iran and Jordan will now be able to obtain their visas on arrival at the airport, she added.
Tunisia's state budget for 2015 stands at some 29 billion dinars.