The site of Baths of Antoninus or Baths of Carthage is empty after measures were taken by the country's authorities in order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, in Carthage, east of the capital Tunis, on March 20, 2020. (AFP/Fethi Belaid)
Tunisia's tourism sector has collapsed, officials warned Saturday, with earnings plunging 60 percent and swathes of hotels at risk of closing permanently.
The sector, a major employer that accounts for 14 percent of the North African nation's GDP, has been hit hard by restrictions imposed to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.
"There has been a drop in tourism activities of 60 percent, and we could reach 70 percent by the end of 2020," Tourism Minister Habib Ammar told reporters.
Tunisia's income from tourism this year has totaled just 1.56 billion dinars (US$563 million), officials statistics showed.
Total bed nights -- the number of nights visitors stayed in hotels -- dropped by 79.5 percent.
"The current tourism situation is very bad -- if not catastrophic," said Khaled Fakhfakh, president of the Federation of Tunisian Hotels.
"Sixty percent of hotels have not opened this year and they risk not reopening, mainly because of COVID-19."
Tunisia was already battling high unemployment before the start of the pandemic.
The small Mediterranean country, with a population of around 11 million, has recorded 191 deaths from the novel coronavirus out of 14,392 cases.
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