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Business

Tourism Casts a Wary Eye on Tunisia

The recent terror attack in Tunisia and news that the foreign ministry might issue a travel warning to one of Germany’s most favorite tourist destinations has put some on edge. But tour operators remain optimistic.

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A lagoon that once served as an ancient Carthaginian port, one of the many tourist attractions.

The count of the victims in last week’s bombing of a Tunisian synagogue grows each day. With it, the suspicion that al Qaeda or some other terrorist cell was responsible for the explosion on the island of Djerba, which claimed an estimated 16 lives.

German foreign ministry officials said Thursday the number of Germans killed in the explosion had climbed to 11, including a 15-year-old girl. The news has been a small nightmare for the German tourism industry, which counts Tunisia among its most popular destinations.

An estimated 1 million Germans visit the moderate Muslim nation on Africa’s east coast each year, making up 20 percent of the island’s visitors, according to Frank Nowara, who runs Nahost.de, a Middle East and North Africa travel web site for German tourists. Since the attack last week, Nowara says people have been writing him asking how safe the region really is or whether they should avoid traveling in groups.

He said its hard to give them answer given that everyone has their own definition of what they consider safe.

Distorted picture

"I think the whole thing is a little bit irrational," he told DW-WORLD. "Last weekend, protestors broke windows at the British embassy, but people don’t call up asking if it’s safe to go to Berlin."

Brandopfer auf der Intensivstation

Ein nicht identifizierter 40 Jahre alter Mann, der zu den Brandopfern einer Explosion vor der Synagoge von Djerba, Tunesien, zaehlt, liegt auf der Intensivstation des Unfallkrankenhauses Berlin am Sonntag, 14. April 2002. "Momentan ist alle Aufmerksamkeit darauf gerichtet, ob die Opfer von Djerba ueberleben, doch oft beginnen die eigentlichen Leiden nach der Entlassung aus der Klinik", erklaert Petra Krause, die Vorsitzende der Bundesinitiative fuer Brandverletzte. (AP Photo/Jan Bauer)

Nowara attributes the concern to the pictures the media has bombarded the world with in recent weeks. Photos and film of blackened buildings, heavily-armed soldiers and bloodied victims have, of course, had a negative effect on the tourism trade, he said. But it’s too much to talk of long-term damage.

"People want to go on vacation," he said.

Travel industry giants TUI and Thomas Cook have yet to release any statements warning against travel to Tunisia. Most agencies are assuming things are as normal unless the German government places a travel warning on the African nation.

Debate on travel warning

A German Parliamentary committee was debating whether to issue a warning on Thursday. Should they decide to raise the current security advisory, Germany's tourism industry would have to pocket the costs should travellers decide to unbook their vacations.

For right now, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said travellers to Tunisia should be more aware and vigilant, a normal request in "crisis regions" such as Tunisia and the Middle East.

Tourists in Tunisia are showing only mild concern in light of the recent attacks.

"I still feel safe," one tourist told Deutsche Welle. "Tunisia has done everything it can so far. If it was ana ttack- that can happen anywhere in the world. Anything can happen anywhere."