Tourism in Tunisia: A Public Relations & Marketing Controversy

Tunisia Public Relations

 Controversy has risen over a Tunisia Public Relations campaign encouraged people to travel to the region…

A controversy has erupted over a PR move made by Tunisia. This move, intended to increase tourism, sparked contention because it uses the 7/7 bombings in London and the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York to encourage people to visit Tunisia after the recent beach massacre.

The public relations campaign comes in the form of online posters that feature images of terrorist attacks and are accompanied by the words “Would you stop visiting?” Images include the Twin Towers, the destroyed Tavistock Square bus in London, and a poster referring to the gun attacks on a satirical newspaper in Paris. Each poster also says “Support Tunisia, land of peace.”

The campaign comes on the heels of last month’s shooting at the Sousse beach resort in Tunisia. Thirty-eight people were murdered. Tunisia is in a state of emergency following this attack, but there is concern that the fragile tourism industry will collapse due to fear of traveling in an area that has recently suffered such a tragedy.

Tourism is a major source of revenue for Tunisia. Any drop in tourism could be devastating to the country, especially long-term. Tourism accounts for about seven percent of the Gross Domestic Product. Most visits to the country by tourists have been incident free according to a 2014 study.

The idea behind the PR campaign was to show that terrorism and violence can happen anywhere. People should not stop traveling just because there was an attack. It attempts to help people realize they have not stopped visiting New York City, London, or Paris, so they should not stop visiting Tunisia either.

Tunisia’s public relations campaign is controversial because it uses tragedy to try to encourage people to visit. The images are gut-wrenching. Many claim that such a campaign borders on warmongering, using conflict for profit. Some people are concerned that the campaign is insensitive because many of the victims were tourists themselves causing backlash towards the campaign.

Tunisia, however, wants the images to be provocative and to make people think. Selim Ben Hadj Yahia, Managing Director of Ramdam, an agency based in Tunisia, claims he created the images to shock people and get them to think. He wants people to realize that terrorism affects everyone and can happen anywhere. It is not limited to high profile locations. He wanted to raise awareness and bring support to Tunisia in the wake of the tragedy.

The campaign was not created for a client of the agency or for profit. Selim Ben Hadj Yahia says he intended to create an atmosphere of hope and willingness. He wants people to realize terrorism is a tragedy and we must unite against it. The aim of the campaign – send a strong signal and not surrender to panic.

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