Riots, protests, public unrest and political instability (some spurred on by the Arab Spring) have made the North African country of Algeria an undesirable tourist attraction. The Algerian government, currently struggling with rising food prices and the ongoing societal problems, is ambitiously looking to restore its tourism industry. Minister Smail Mimoune of the Tourism Ministry stated to Reuters that one of the many goals for the government is to rake in more than 3.5 million tourists per year starting in the year 2015.
While there are ideal tourism attractions in Algeria such as the pristine deserts, mountains and the Mediterranean coastline, the poor accommodations, threats of terrorism and many other factors have only served to push away potential tourists who visit other nearby countries.
In comparison to its tens of billions of U.S. dollars earned from oil revenue, the North African country only receives little over 300 million U.S. dollars from its small tourism industry which are overwhelmingly made up of ethnic Algerian tourists.
Tourism in Algeria, a country which mostly depends on its oil like its counterparts in both North Africa & the Middle East, only makes up less than 1% of the gross domestic product of the country.
The government of Algeria has lately been stressed under many burdens recently due to rising food and fuel prices which resulted in frustrated riots last year particularly in the capital city.
In response to the possibility of food shortages, low harvets and the volatile nature of the markets, Algeria recently became the largest wheat-importer in the entire world by drastically increasing its imports to over 6.35 million metric tons of wheat
The country in recent years have been pouring more money earned from its oil revenue than what it has earned into infrastructure projects including the promotion of small businesses and the creation of thousands of jobs.
However, the government seems to be thinking that with the minuscule return on its vast investments and the unknown future of the global economy, it is better to now restore its tourism industry in hopes to lessen its dependence on oil.
The Algerian Tourism Ministry is currently developing 70 new hotels and preparing promotions of various attraction sites including unique Algerian mosques, the Mediterranean coastline & others to attract future tourists.
The Tourism Ministry stated that the threats of terrorists and Islamic militants ”will not be of concern” to its plans and possibly to future visitors from foreign countries, though it is still advising foreigners to not “stray away” from the “tourist destinations”.
This move to boost tourism comes right before the May elections in Algeria which are expected to be more reform focused than elections in the past.
Furthermore, regarding the presence of danger and terrorism in Algeria, there have been disturbing reports of a discrete return of Salafist Jihadists and other radicals.
The Algerian government is hostile to such radical elements and Islamic insurgents.
The conflict between the government and the Salafist Jihadists, who advocate the use of violence in Islam, has produced more than 200,000 deaths since the early 1990′s.
Damage as a result of recent public unrest and the sporadic acts of violence have amounted to over 7 billion U.S. dollars in damages.