The death of three Japanese and wounding of three others at the hands of armed gunmen wearing military uniforms shattered the image among many Japanese of Tunisia as a comparatively safe tourist destination.
The attack on the North African country’s national museum in the capital city of Tunis killed 17 foreign tourists and two Tunisians on Wednesday.
A spokeswoman for Cruise Planet Co., a Tokyo-based travel agency, confirmed that one of the Japanese killed and one of the injured had been passengers on a cruise the company had arranged. Another 89 passengers were safe, she said.
The ship had been on a week-long tour of the Mediterranean and had docked in Tunis on Wednesday.
On Thursday morning, the Foreign Ministry issued a travel alert for Tunisia, warning Japanese tourists and residents there not to go outside unnecessarily, as much as possible, and to avoid public facilities and areas that might be potential terrorist targets.
The attack prompted major travel agencies to re-evaluate their tour plans.
A JTB spokesman said the company was waiting for information from the Foreign Ministry about security conditions in the country, and would make a decision on whether to cancel, postpone or rearrange tours to Tunisia based on that information.
A spokeswoman for Kinki Nihon Tourist Co. said Thursday afternoon the company has no customers in Africa at this time.
The company had been working with a cruise ship line on a tour that would include a stop in Tunisia, but almost no one had signed up for it.
A decision to cancel or postpone the cruise, or to rearrange the itinerary will be made by the cruise line after consulting with the Japanese government. Once that’s decided, Kinki Nihon will work with the cruise ship company, the spokeswoman added.
The ruins of ancient Carthage and resort areas along the Mediterranean are particularly popular with Japanese tourists, according to the Tunisian Embassy in Tokyo.
Interest in visiting Tunisia spiked in Japan after treasures from ancient Carthage, mostly thousands of years old, were exhibited at 10 cities across the country in 2009.
The following year, about 13,000 Japanese visited Tunisia. That number fell to just 3,000 in 2011 due to the Arab Spring revolutions, but had climbed back to about 6,000 by last year.
The target of Wednesday’s attack, Bardo National Museum, is located inside the parliament compound in central Tunis and is a tourist attraction famous for its large collection of Roman mosaics.
Information from Kyodo added