Travel writer, Mollie Johnson, evaluates the impact terrorism has had on tourism in the North African country of Tunisia
The inquest into the deaths of thirty Brits who died in the Tunisia terrorist attack of 2015 delivered its findings on the 27th February after seven weeks, the coroner declared that the victims were unlawfully killed but he could not rule that neglect by the tour operator contributed to this.
On 26th June 2015, I was one of the many tourists sunning it up in Sousse and enjoying the second day of my holiday. Although I did not experience the attacks first hand, I witnessed the effects of them in my hotel just 8km down the beach as this brutal attack broke family’s apart and ripped the country’s tourist industry to shreds in the last few days of the holy month of Ramadan.
Thirty-eight people were killed in these attacks, including thirty Britons and three Irish citizens. To so many people these victims are just ‘victims’ but each of them had a story and a life that was cut short by Seifeddine Rezgui on this fateful day.
Christopher Bell. Sharon Bell. Trudy Jones. Bruce Wilkinson. Lisa Burbidge. Billy Graham. Lisa Graham. Carly Lovett. Lorna Carty. Stu Davey. Scott Chalkley. Laurence (Larry) Hayes. Martina Hayes. Claire Windass. Jim McQuire. Ann McQuire. Stuart Cullen. Philip Heathcote. Denis Thwaites. Elaine Thwaites. Stephen Mellor. John Welch. Eileen Swannack. John Stocker. Janet Stocker. David Thompson. John Stollery. Chris Dyer. Angie Fisher. Ray Fisher. Joel Richards. Patrick Evans. Adrian Evans.
All of these people were denied the opportunity to continue their stories, their lives were cut short. And for what? To make a statement? To punish Tunisia for their friendly relations with the West? How can it be fair for thirty-eight innocent people to be shot dead, causing family’s heartbreak, just to send a message?
The Tunisian People
The victims are not the only people to have suffered from the events of this day. Due to increased security at the hotel that I stayed at, we remained in Tunisia for the rest of our holiday and watched as more and more tourists left, with none coming in. As less and less people arrived, more and more Tunisian people were losing their jobs. Our maid had her last day just two days after the attack and was brought to tears when detailing to us how she will not even be able to afford her rent for the next month and has no other way of earning money. People’s lives were falling apart around us due to one, world-shattering act.
On the 27th June 2015, whilst we were still in Tunisia, the Tunisian people protested against the actions and the terrorism of the 26th June. To prove that they were not affiliated with the violence and highlight their alliance with the West, they marched through Sousse and past our hotel carrying signs that condemned terrorism, the flag of their country and the British flag.
What is happening now, nearly 2 years on?
Joel Richards, the 19-year old victim from Wednesbury has had a charity set up named after him by his family. ‘Smile for Joel’ was set up by Suzanne, his mother, to keep his memory alive which has organised 5k and 3k fundraising runs to raise money for the independent charity ‘Victim Support’. Their Facebook page ‘Smile for Joel’, details their efforts whilst honouring Joel, his uncle Adrian and grandfather Pat.
In regards to tourism in Tunisia, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) warned against travel to Tunisia after the attack, putting a state of emergency in place until at least May, 2017. Thomson announced on 31st January 2017 that they would no longer be selling any Thomson or First Choice holidays there until the FCO advice changes, and Thomas Cook has cancelled all holidays there up until May 24th, 2017. Nearly two years on from the incident and the Tunisian people’s tourism industry is still in tatters.
The 2015 Tunisian terrorist attack has left many people heartbroken, taking innocent people away from their families in order to make a statement. Nearly two years on and the hurting has not stopped for the families of the victims or the Tunisian people. One act has caused so much pain for so many people, yet I guess that was the aim of it.