The revival of tourism in Algeria is another Arlesian that is talked about a lot without ever seeing it. The country has enormous potential but lacks a strategy to exploit it.
The activity of the ministry, its branches and the various offices dedicated to the sector is almost limited to preparing the summer season each year, which itself is reduced to the movement of Algerians to the beaches for a weekend or at best for a stay in a hotel or campsite for a few days.
The tourist activity itself, that is to say the influx of nationals and especially foreigners on historical monuments, old towns, seaside resorts, oases or mountain resorts, is reduced to its simplest expression.
We are talking about two to three million tourists a year, 500,000 during the Covid period, but the majority are nationals residing abroad and who come for holidays in the country.
These are more family visits than tourism. In any case, Algeria receives significantly fewer tourists than its immediate neighbors for whom tourism is a key sector of the economy.
Morocco receives nearly 12 million tourists a year and generates annual revenue of around 60 billion dirhams (5.6 billion euros), or 8 to 10% of its GDP.
In Tunisia, visited by around 9 million tourists, the sector employs 100,000 people directly and 290,000 indirectly and contributes 14% of GDP.
Algeria does not have precise figures concerning the economy of the sector. There is nevertheless an indicator that does not lie: the specialized international bodies do not put it in the top 100 of world tourist destinations.
For a country that has the largest area in Africa, 1,200 kilometers of coastline on the Mediterranean, the most temperate sea in the world, the remains of 10,000 years of history, there is bound to be a problem.
The tourist assets of Algeria are innumerable: monuments, rock carvings, Roman theatres, ksour, oases, snow-capped mountains part of the year, beaches, old towns, cultural diversity, gastronomy.
Algerian cuisine has just been ranked 26th in the world by an international organization, ahead of those of other Maghreb countries and the Arab world and almost all the cuisines of Africa.
Even the reception infrastructures exist. The latest statistics show a hotel base of 140,000 beds. The country also has airports, ports and one of the densest and most modern road networks in Africa.
In their quest to diversify the economy, the Algerian authorities see tourism as a sector ready for exploitation and whose dividends can therefore be immediate. There is nothing to create, and almost nothing to invest.
But the rickety share of tourism in the economy does not change year after year, despite promises and announcements with great fanfare.
“The country is huge, certainly, the 10th largest in the world by area. But it is also obscure, hidden behind both geographical and artificial barriers.summarizes a journalist from the Washington Post who carried out a report on Algeria.
These barriers are even more artificial ” that ” geographical “. Professionals in the sector and other specialists agree to first point out a lack of valuation of the Algeria destination.
In other words, very little effort is made to publicize it. On social networks, videos praising or describing the country’s assets have been increasing in number in recent years.
They are most often the work of content creators or simple tourists returning from Algeria and amazed by what they have seen or tasted.
The bodies whose mission is to publicize the destination do very little in this direction. However, it is not enough to be aware of the destination and to want to go there.
You also have to be able to go there. Because the other barrier, really artificial, is the difficulty for foreign tourists to obtain an entry visa for Algeria, in addition to the high cost of plane tickets.
An aberration for a country which, officially, seeks to develop its tourism. The recent testimony of an Egyptian YouTuber, who nevertheless came to help make Algeria’s assets known to his fellow citizens and his followers in the Arab world, is edifying.
Obtaining a visa for Algeria is almost an impossible mission, he regrets, when his country, a world tourist destination par excellence, grants visas to Algerians “between 48 hours and 5 days”.