Saharan tourism affected by Algerian gas plant attack

Tourism in the Algerian region of the Sahara Desert, an area that has traditionally been popular with foreign tourists wishing to experience the desert at close quarters, has been affected by the recent terrorist attack on a gas plant.

During the attack, workers at the plant were taken as hostages and a number were killed before soldiers liberated the installation. Before the attack, the awe-inspiring dunes and wild mountains had drawn foreigners to Algeria’s desert regions for decades. However, the latest attacks, which were apparently carried out by factions sympathetic to Muslim terrorist Group, Al Qaeda, could possibly put an end to tourism, as tourists are now considering the area too risky to visit, and new local government controls will impose more restrictions on tourism.

Chris Scott, a Sahara guide, said, ‘The Sahara is an iconic wilderness much like the Himalaya or Antarctica and most agree that Algeria, the ninth biggest country in the world, is the best place to experience the full range of desert landscapes, authentic Tuareg culture, pre-historic rock art, adventure and so on,’ ‘It’s all there and the people of the south have decades of experience in delivering what tourists want.’

The tourist count already indicates that tourists are reluctant to visit the area. The numbers of tourists visiting the deep south of Algeria dropped from 1,807 in 2011 to 643 last year, and in Tamanrasset, the main Saharan city, 70 of the 76 tourist companies have closed. Cancellations are common, and with many nations issuing travel advisories, tourists are few and far between.

In the past, the region was especially popular with Europeans who were keen to visit the vast deserts, palm-fringed oases and rugged mountains that feature wall paintings that are close to 10,000-years-old.