Spanish hotel chain doubts Tunisia future after deadly terrorist attack

Riu Hotels and Resorts is to pull out of Tunisia following June’s terror attack at one of its hotels in which 38 foreign tourists were killed.

Spanish hotel chain doubts Tunisia future after deadly terrorist attack
The Riu Spanish hotel chain is set to close its hotels in Tunisia. Photo:

Sources from the Spanish hotel chain told news agency Efe that it will close operations in the North African country from January 2016 in nine hotels including the Imperial Marhaba, scene of June’s terror attack in which 38 foreign tourists were killed.

The attack, in the resort of Sousse, has had a catastrophic effect on Tunisia’s tourism industry, with visitor numbers plummeting in the months after the attack, which forced tour operators to offer concerned customers refunds or alternative holiday destinations.

The British Foreign Office is currently warning against “all but essential travel” to Tunisia, citing a “high threat of terrorism” following June’s attack.

“It’s no secret that the situation of the tourist sector in Tunisia is very complicated and Riu is currently in talks with the owners of each hotel to decide on our future in each case,” sources from the hotel chain said.

Local sources told Spanish news agency Efe that the chain had “abandoned its hotels in Tunisia” since June’s attack.

The chain has admitted a fall in tourist numbers since June, so much so it has already closed three of its hotels:

“At the moment three hotels are closed for the winter season, a decision we have taken with the owners of the hotels due to low occupation at this time,” a hotel spokesman told Efe.

A boost in Spanish tourism

Instability across North Africa has had a knock on effect of boosting tourist numbers to Spain, with many opting for the safer option of a holiday on the Spanish coast.

Since 2011 Spain has welcomed between 6.3 and 8.2 million tourists who would otherwise have holidayed in North Africa, according to Exceltur, the Association of Spanish Tourism Professionals.

The latest tourism figures show that Spain welcomed a record 9.2 million foreign tourists in August, 1.6 percent more than the same month in 2014. 

Brits make up the most visitors to Spain – 23.3 percent of all visitors in August came from the United Kingdom, followed by 22.6 percent from France, 12.9 percent from Germany and 7.4 percent from Italy.