Enormous Profit Potential
While on her five-day visit to Tunisia - from July 9 - 13, 2012 - the German Parliamentary State Secretary in the Ministry of Development (BMZ), Gudrun Kopp, announced the launching of an initiative to reinvigorate Tunisia's tourism sector. The project will be implemented by the German government's Association for International Cooperation (GIZ formerly GTZ), in cooperation with the TUI tourism company. The GIZ will share with TUI the costs of the project - each contributing a half million Euros. The project aims to upgrade the training and enhance the professionalism in the hotel sector. In addition "Tunisian arts and crafts will be promoted" - not for their own sake, but for "integration into TUI's tourism program." The objective of, what is being labeled, development policy aide is to restructure the Tunisian tourism sector to conform to the business interests of German companies. The tourism industry suffered a drastic setback in its intake, due to Tunisia's political upheavals last year. The travel and vacation industry had been one of the most significant sectors of the Tunisian economy, during the previous years, accounting for seven percent of the country's GDP. In 2008 alone, seven million vacationers visited the country. This is why State Secretary Kopp sees "an enormous potential" in tourism.
The GIZ's partner, TUI, is the largest tourism company in Europe. With its headquarters in Hannover, TUI incorporates tourist offices and travel agencies, as well as airlines companies, hotels and cruise ships under one roof. TUI's current cooperation with the BMZ is not the first of its kind. For example, the company worked together with GIZ and the Egyptian tourist ministry on a project in "support of the small and middle enterprises" in Egypt. TUI's cooperation in German development policy is an aspect of the company's reinforced efforts to cultivate abroad an image of being a sound enterprise, committed to "sustainable" and "soft" tourism. TUI therefore advertises its commitment to "social responsibility," and is engaged in numerous benevolent projects. This makes it attractive to those profitable sectors of the prosperous German middle class, prone to take vacations in the impoverished southern hemisphere, sweetened by a socio-ecological bonus and the prospect of buying exotic goods (arts and crafts). In Tunisia, the BMZ is supporting TUI in the realization of its market strategy.
Fierce Profit Seeking
When dealing with issues, other than having access to certain potential markets, the TUI company reverts to other than soft methods. For example to impose its sales interests, recently TUI's airlines company, TUI Fly, in concert with Air Berlin and the Lufthansa sued the trade union of the air traffic controllers (GdF) for damages because of their strike at the Stuttgart Airport. The lawsuit was aimed at limiting all forms of labor struggles, which could impinge, beyond a bare minimum, on the undisturbed functioning of the airlines. This objective is in violation of German laws, which is why this suit should be thrown out of court.
Precarious Working Conditions
In Tunisia's tourism sector, TUI encounters favorable business conditions. The working conditions are extremely precarious. Employment in the sector - of around 400,000 employees - is usually poorly paid and with no securities from collective bargaining agreements. This is why a large number of hotels have refused to transform work contracts older than four years to open-ended contracts, as required by law. Because the employers of the tourism sector refuse to enter a binding collective bargaining contract, since the old regime was overthrown, the Tunisian trade union, Fédération Génerale de l'Alimentation et du Tourisme (FGAT-UGTT) called a general strike in hotels and travel offices, in November 2011. The employers have refused in spite of the fact that already 51 collective bargaining agreements have been signed in other sectors of Tunisia's private economy.
Beneficiary of the Transformation
This new BMZ initiative in Tunisia's tourism sector is an element of Berlin's foreign policy strategy, using the social transformation in North Africa for the realization of German interests. Already in May 2011, the BMZ created three funds in "support of the North African transformation process." One was the so-called democratization fund of six million Euros for promoting the creation of political parties, the second, a qualification and employment fund, of approx. eight million Euros. Thirdly, together with the German Development Bank (KFW), the BMZ created the SANAD Fund of 52 million Euros, earmarked to aid small and medium enterprises. The German Foreign Ministry, for its part, has earmarked 50 million Euros in financial aid for each of the "Arab Spring" countries for the years 2012 and 2013 - within the framework of so-called transformation partnerships. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.) The German government's close cooperation with private companies, such as TUI, exemplifies the objectives of its "support for the North African Transformation Process." It is not aimed at helping the protagonists of last year's social revolts, which, in the meantime, have all been put on the defensive, but rather to restructure the countries concerned along the lines of Germany's business and geostrategic interests.