By Sami Zaptia.
Tripoli 22 July:
For the first time in its 54-year history, the national Tunisian airlines, Tunisair, has banned the consumption of alcohol on its flights.
The measure was introduced from the first day of the holy fasting month of Ramadan (20 July) and is expected to last only during Ramadan. The ban still allows the sale of alcohol on board, but prohibits its consumption.
The ban has attracted accusations of ’hypocricy’ on some social network websites as the ban of consumption is only for the month of Ramadan, and not for the duration of the rest of the year. Equally, the sale of alcohol is equally prohibited by Islam, not just its consumption. Tunisair has chosen to continue to sell the alcohol and prosper from its income, but denies its customers the right to consume it on board.
Moreover, alcohol is still being sold and consumed at the airports and all over Tunisia. Critics of the move have also pointed out that none of the Gulf state airlines have initiated such a move during Ramadan.
The effect on tourism and the economy
Tunisair has also been attacked in the local media on the one hand, for wishing to pander to the winners of the Tunisian elections, the Muslim Brotherhood. On the other hand, others have called for the ban to be in place for the whole year.
It will be interesting to see what new pro-Islamic policies the new Islamist government of Tunisia introduces. It will particularly be interesting to see how far the so-called Islamists are prepared to sacrifice Tunisia’s tourism and economy for their beliefs.
Lessons for Libya
From Libya’s point of view, it will be interesting to monitor developments in Tunisia for potential lessons to learn. Libya and Tunisia are very closely linked. It is estimated that over a million Libyans travel to Tunisia for health tourism alone.
Tunisia is regarded as Libya’s peer on some levels, as Libyans compare its cleanliness, rule of law, organisation and diversification from non-hydrocarbons as a potential model.
With regards to Libya’s tourism ambitions, Libyans have always wondered if Libya could ever have a tourism industry on a par with Tunisia without alcohol.
The so-called Islamist political parties in Libya failed to win an outright victory in the recent Libyan National Congress elections, as they did in both Tunisia and Egypt. Libyans will be watching the effects of the both these movements on both Tunisian and Egyptian society with ramifications back home.