Tunisia Turns To Star Wars To Revive Tourism

Tunisia Tourism

On Wednesday, two dozen Imperial Troopers and fans dressed as Star Wars characters paraded the streets of Tunis for the country’s first Star Wars event.

Tunis, Tunisia’s capital city, was the location for the spring revolutions in 2011 that resulted in the overthrow of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The country is hoping to leave that memory behind and instead focus on reviving Tunis as a tourist spot.

According to the Herald Sun, seven cities in Tunisia have been used as the setting for planet Tatooine for five out of six Star Wars films that were released between 1977 and 2005. The planet’s name was taken from a town in Tunisia called Tatouine.

The Tunisian National Office for Tourism worked together with Tunisia’s Star Wars fan club to hold Wednesday’s event. They invited fan clubs from Europe to take part in the parade. There will also be screenings of the Star Wars films that will take place for the next couple of days.

Ingo Kaiser, head of Europe’s Star Wars fan club, said that they went to Tunis with a mission to save Tozeur and Matmata, the Star Wars sets that are slowly being blanketed by the sand in the Tunisian desert. Kaiser was sporting a helmet and khaki overalls inspired by the look of the AT-ST machines that fought rebels in Return of the Jedi, which was released in 1983.

According to the director of the National Office of Tunisian Tourism, Zied Chargui, the campaign was executed in order “to take advantage of these sets, which are unique in the world.” He also mentioned that the sets are the only ones remaining from the movies.

They started the campaign with the Tunisian version of Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy,” which has become popular all over the world. The video features various Star Wars characters dancing to the song in the sunny Tunisian desert. The video was even tweeted by Williams himself.

Since the spring revolutions in 2011, Tunisia’s tourism industry has declined to a near collapse. For the past few months, however, the tourism has become more stable with the new campaign the tourism office has launched. Reports indicate that Tunisia had 6.2 million tourist arrivals in 2013, but that is still 9 percent less than the arrivals in 2010.

The director of Tunisia’s Star Wars fan club, Ameur Abderrahman, said that this year’s event is the first convention in Tunisia, but they are looking into making it an annual affair.

Another goal for the campaign is to save the set of Mos Espa, which was used in the 1999 Star Wars film. The set is slowly being covered by a sand dune. As an aid, a crowdsourcing website is aiming to raise $188,000 in order to clear the sand dune and restore the set.

Chargui said that the event is just one of the many ideas that they have for their tourism campaign. They will continue using “the force” of the Star Wars films to come out of the tourism slump and attract tourists back to their nation.

The 1st International Meeting of Star Wars Fans in Tunisia will continue until May 3.

[Images via NBC News / PBS / Herald Sun / Wikimedia]