Tunisia defends controversial tourism boost campaign

by Alfie FEATHERSTONE on June 16, 2011

Tunisia has defended its controversial advertising campaign, which is attempting to attract tourists back to the north African country after its January revolution.

It includes billboards across London of a woman receiving a massage, next to a caption that reads “They say that in Tunisia some people receive heavy-handed treatment.” During the country’s uprising, which started in December, at least 200 Tunisians were killed before the regime of long-running President, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, finally collapsed.

With a population of only 10 million people, tourism is crucial to Tunisians and their economy. While being worth around $2.5bn to the economy, 400,000 jobs have been provided by the industry. Syrine Cherif, the woman heading Memac Ogilvy, the advertising agency that conjured up the campaign for Tunisia’s Tourism Board, told how the advert was meant to create a “buzz” throughout the travel world and entice any potential tourists from the UK that might be interested in heading to north Africa on holiday.

The idea was intended to be provocative and address any possible fears surrounding the issue of the uprising and the still on-going Arab spring, Cherif told reporters. Other advertisements depict ancient Roman ruins immediately next another controversial caption: “They say Tunisia is nothing but ruins.” Cherif denied that the campaign shows insensitivity towards Tunisians that have been imprisoned, tortured, or killed throughout Mr Ben Ali’s 23-year-long reign.

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