Tunisia runs provocative tourism ads

Hotel News - 16/06/2011

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Tunisia has been forced to defend itself over a controversial ad campaign aimed at attracting back tourists who fled the country amidst the revolution there earlier this year. The North African nation, which saw its tourism industry decimated by the unrest and violence in January, has been trying to coax tourists back to what was for many years a popular sunshine destination, particularly amongst Europeans.

The new advertising campaign, however, has fingers wagging, as imagery considered by many to be insensitive is rolled out. In London, billboards can be seen that carry a photograph of a woman receiving a massage, along with a play on words that refers to ‘heavy-handed treatment’.

During violence in January’s revolution, which began with a popular uprising in December, some 200 people lost their lives. By the time the rebelling ended, President Zine al-Abideine Ben Ali and his family had fled to Saudi Arabia.

Tunisia has a population of slightly more than 10 million, making tourism a key component of the nation’s economy. About 400,000 people work in the tourism industry, which generates about £1.5 billion a year for the economy.

Syrine Cherif, from ad agency Memac Ogilvy, defended the campaign her firm created on behalf of the Tunisian Tourism Board. She said the campaign was designed to generate a ‘buzz’ amongst prospective tourists.

She said the campaign aimed to use provocation in order to deal with worries people might have about travelling to Tunisia because of the recent revolution. She denied the ads displayed a lack of sensitivity for the plight of Tunisians who were tortured, jailed or killed under the 23-year reign of Ben Ali.

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