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TRAVEL ADVISORY – Cruise Ship Arrives in Tunisia Under High Security

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Key Points:

  • A cruise ship has docked in La Goulette, Tunis on 7 October 2016, the first to do so since the terror attacks in March 2015.
  • Armed Islamic State militants killed 22 people at the Bardo Museum in Tunis on 18 March 2015.
  • Increased port security measures have been employed to improve tourist safety and encourage the return of more cruise liners.

Situation Summary:
Travel Information: A cruise ship arrived in the port of Tunis, La Goulette for the first time since the terror attack on the Bardo Museum in March 2015. Twenty-one tourists were killed in the attack by armed militants belonging to the Islamic State. Port security measures have been reinforced for the vessels arrival. The improved port security includes regular patrols by small boats whilst the boat is in port and multiple guards posted on the berth. There will be improved monitoring of access passes to the entrance of the port including searching of taxi cabs, buses and other vehicles accessing the Tourist Village at the cruise terminal. Searches will be conducted with the assistance of search dogs, mirrors and metal detector scanners for all persons returning to the port.


Intrinsic Comment:
Since the Arab Spring in 2011, the tourism industry in Tunisia has been in crisis. The second terror attack targeting foreigners in 2015 resulted in 38 holidaymakers being killed whilst at a beach hotel in Sousse. The rapid decline in tourism was primarily based on security fears and dozens of hotels have had to close as a result. Considerable efforts are being made to attract tourists to the city once again, therefore improving security measures at key locations has been focussed on.

Although port security has been improved, there continue to be concerns over security measures in the city. Tunisia received increased funding to develop counter-terrorism measures after the presidential guards were targeted in downtown Tunis in another terror attack in November 2015. Twelve people were killed and an additional twenty injured by a suicide bombing on a bus on Mohamed V Boulevard. A state of emergency was declared after the attack and a curfew imposed.  The state of emergency remains in effect and has been extended six times. Although the curfew has been lifted, this emergency state enables the government to ban strikes and control the media. Overall, the increased funding has been spent on improving border security as well as training of security personnel. The arrival of the cruise ship on 7 October 2016 is largely symbolic as no official resumption of service by cruise liners to Tunis has been announced. However, the aim of encouraging the return of tourists is notable as the regional threat posed by groups such as the Islamic State in Libya, and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, remains unchanged.


Intrinsic Security Advice:
Risk Ratings: Tunisia: Moderate Tunis: Moderate
There have been no significant terror attacks in Tunis in 2016 so far. Counter-terrorism measures have been introduced and the increase in port security has been applauded. However, travelers to Tunis may be more at risk to terror attacks when exploring the city once outside of high security zones. Terror attacks in Tunisia have so far proven to target areas with a high concentration of foreigners. It is therefore recommended persons traveling to this area maintain a high level of situational awareness and inform local security services of any suspicious activity.


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