Hilton signs deal for resort in Tunisia

Hilton Skanes Monastir Beach Resort to open in 2022

Article Highlights:

  • Global hotel operator Hilton has announced plans to open a 332-key beachfront resort in Monastir in Tunisia.
  •  The agreement with Societe Marhaba Beach is slated to open in two years.
  • Investment may signal as a vote of confidence in Tunisian Security Forces.

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  • An industry leader such as Hilton investing in Tunisia in light of the 2015 Sousse beach attack where a gunman killed dozens of people, mostly tourists, on a beach in the Tunisian resort of Sousse.
  • Continued security & social economic challenges throughout the country.

It’s been more than four years since the Sousse Beach attack and Tunisia has grown a lot in terms of security readiness. This was highlighted in October of this year (2020) when US Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper and Tunisian Defense Minister Ibrahim Bartagi agreed on a road map for defense cooperation.

Secretary Esper said he was: “Impressed by the Tunisians’ efforts to enhance their capabilities against terrorists, but also to promote stability and security on the African continent.”

However, persistent challenges, worsened by the ongoing pandemic, continues to block economic progress which explains the recent uptick in protests throughout the country.

A Vote of Confidence…

Hilton’s investment may appear for other investors as a vote of confidence of the progress made by Tunisian Security Forces since the 2016 attack and potential of the North African tourism sector.

Hilton Skanes Monastir Beach Resort…

At least that’s what Hichem Driss, owner of Societe Marhaba Beach, thinks as noted by his statement: “We are delighted to form a partnership with Hilton to open a premier resort – part of the Palm Lake Monastir development – a new investment in Skanes that will feature retail, entertainment and residential. We are proud to bring Hilton’s renowned hospitality to the Tunisian coast, which will further enhance the tourism offering and international appeal of the destination.”

The facilities, slated to open in 2022-23 will include eight F&B venues, including a food truck, two swimming pools, a spa and wellness center, a fitness center, tennis courts and kid’s club.

We will continue to monitor the security situation in Tunisia and provide more security updates & insights.

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@DavidSecurity

Ten Years later, Social Media Still Matters in Tunisia

Was Social Media responsible for the Arab Spring? Did a single YouTube Video spark the Jasmine Revolution? And what is the state of social media in Tunisia today? LET’S TALK SECURITY!

Article Highlights:

  • Social Media’s IMPACT on the Arab Spring. 
  • Social Media’s Role in the Jasmine Revolution (Tunisia).
  • State of Social Media in Tunisia (2020).

Social Media’s Impact on the Arab Spring

As we approach the 10th year anniversary of the Arab Spring, we’re going to take a look at this article entitled Arab Spring: The First Smartphone Revolution.

The Arab Spring which took place all the way back in late 2010 (feels like a lifetime ago!) was called by many as The First Smartphone Revolution mainly because of the significant role that Social Media had in the events throughout the region. Smartphones gave youthful Arab Spring protesters a technological edge that helped topple aging dictatorships a decade ago and made their revolutionary images go viral.

@DavidSecurity with Tunisian Security Forces

I remember it well because I was there working as the Security Coordinator for the American Cooperative School of Tunis. And I can personally attest that social media, specifically Facebook played a major role in the events that lead to the Tunisian uprising that was later labeled the Jasmine Revolution.

Was Social Media responsible for the Arab Spring?

Many of the recent news articles offering analysis on the Arab Spring are now downplaying the role of social networks choosing to see them more like the spark that toppled the first domino.

I tend to disagree with this assessment because I believe that without social networks the uprisings would not have succeeded on such a massive scale.

THE ROLE OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN THE ARAB SPRING | Pangaea Journal

Social Media Important Role in the Jasmine Revolution (Tunisia)

There can be no denying that without social media the Jasmine Revolution would not have happened, at least not as quickly as it did. In fact, without one specific YouTube Video, it may have never happened.

Here’s how it went down:

DEC. 18

People witnessing the fiery act of defiance and the street demonstrations that followed capture the scenes and post them on YouTube. In the Tunisia of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, public protest was strictly banned, yet now there is proof: videos of the protest in Sidi Bouzid that show hundreds of people on the streets, chanting Mr. Bouazizi’s name in open defiance of President Ben Ali. The videos also show how violent the security force’s response was.

DEC. 19

Slim Amamou, an influential Tunisian blogger, sees the video and posts it on Facebook. A middle-class university graduate living in Tunis, Mr. Amamou has little in common with a poor, rural fruit-seller other than hatred for the corrupt Ben Ali regime. After Mr. Amamou posts the video, it goes viral in the Arab World. Al-Jazeera broadcasts it, fuelling copycat demonstrations around the country.

DEC. 27

Protests reach the capital city of Tunis, with about 1,000 demonstrators taking to the streets. Once again, Tunisian activists rely on social media to spread their message. They publicize the protest by hacking into Tunisia’s main labour union website, sending a message to its members to join them in the city’s central Mohammad Ali square. The protesters use Twitter to route demonstrations, avoiding security forces in the streets. Mr. Amamou uses his cell phone to live-stream video of the massive turnout. Others capture and post video of protesters being shot dead on the streets.

JAN. 4, 2011

Mr. Bouazizi succumbs to his injuries, dying in a Tunisian hospital. By now, protests inspired by those in Sidi Bouzid have spread across the country.

JAN. 14

Ben Ali flees Tunisia for Saudi Arabia via Malta, ending his 24-year-long rule. Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi takes over as interim president.

Social Media Still Matters in Tunisia

Today social media continues to play an important role throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA region). In Tunisia, Facebook remains the leader with over 7 million users on the platform. That accounts for 62% of its entire population!

The majority of them were men – 55.7%.

People aged 25 to 34 were the largest user group (2 700 000).

Facebook users in Tunisia

Internet users in Tunisia

  • There were 7.55 million internet users in Tunisia in January 2020.
  • The number of internet users in Tunisia increased by 48 thousand (+0.6%) between 2019 and 2020.
  • Internet penetration in Tunisia stood at 64% in January 2020.
Social media users in Tunisia:
  • There were 7.30 million social media users in Tunisia in January 2020.
  • The number of social media users in Tunisia increased by 473 thousand (+6.9%) between April 2019 and January 2020.
  • Social media penetration in Tunisia stood at 62% in January 2020.
Mobile connections in Tunisia
  • There were 17.77 million mobile connections in Tunisia in January 2020.
  • The number of mobile connections in Tunisia increased by 219 thousand (+1.2%) between January 2019 and January 2020.
  • The number of mobile connections in Tunisia in January 2020 was equivalent to 151% of the total population.

Was social media responsible for the Arab Spring? No, years of suppression, economic disparity, and corruption were the main ingredients. Instead, Social networks provided the channels for the masses to organize and eventually overthrow the regimes that denied them basic freedoms for so many years.

Ten years later Tunisia stands as the only Arab Spring “success story”. Even so, it’s tolerance for social media will continue to be tested as it deals with tough economic as well as security challenges in the coming years.

@DavidSecurity

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France looks to work with Tunisia on returning extremists

Scene of the October 29 killing of three people at a church in the southern French city of Nice.

November 9, 2020

Article Highlights:

  • Tunisian nationals constitute a significant portion of foreign jihadists in Syria, Iraq and Libya.
  • Tunisia is willing on certain conditions to take back its nationals expelled from France.
  • Public opinion in Tunisia is hostile towards the return of suspected jihadists.

Little Tunisia has a BIG jihadist problem

In 2015, the United Nations released a report that highlighted some 5,000 Tunisians traveled to Syria, Iraq and Libya over the past decade.

The Washington Post documented that in the aftermath of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, Tunisians traveled to Syria, Iraq and Libya “more than any other nationality from outside those countries.

While it is important to note that Tunisian authorities claim the figure is lower, around 3,000, it still is highest number of foreign fighters per capita in the world.

The alleged perpetrator of that attack, 21-year-old Brahim Aouissaoui, who arrived illegally in Europe in late September, is not the first Tunisian suspected of carrying out a deadly jihadist attack in Europe.

France wants Tunisia to take Jihadits fighters back…

France is focused on dealing with this sensitive situation following the October 29 killing of three people at a church in the southern French city of Nice.

For starters, France wants to expel some 20 Tunisians already convicted on terrorism charges or suspected of jihadist inclinations.

According to several reports, Tunisia is willing to take back its nationals from France under specific conditions.

Tunisians are NOT in a rush to take back fighters…

Most Tunisians are against the return of the suspected jihadists as they seem them as a threat to their young democracy and modern way of life. Authorities have refused the return of their troubled citizens from France on the basis of travel restrictions linked to the ongoing pandemic.

Tunisia Security Outlook

Security Insight: The return of the suspected jihadists are a security concern in Tunisia. Security analysts calculate that some 70 percent of over 230 foreigners illegally in France and suspected of radicalism are from the Maghreb region which includes Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya.

Operational Impact: While this development may not have an immediate impact on foreign businesses operating in Tunisia, it is important for companies to monitor the negotiations for future risk assessments.

Travel to Tunisia: The latest State Department Travel Advisory for Tunisia is a Level 3: Reconsider Travel. On 28 October the Tunisian authorities introduced new measures due to the ongoing pandemic. These measures include a national curfew and travel restrictions. 

We will continue to monitor the situation in Tunisia by providing up to date analysis and support. Currently, our Security Portal which provides advanced tactical and in-depth forecasting, is proving to be an effective tool for organizations operating in Tunisia.

Request Access to our Security Portal:


Tunisia bans travel within country as cases INCREASE…


Source:[Reuters News] October 29, 2020


Tunisia on Thursday banned travel between the country’s regions, suspended schools and public gatherings and extended a curfew, as it tried to contain a rapid surge of COVID-19 cases with hospitals nearly full.

"Tunisia cannot afford a second lockdown with the government already fighting the central bank over a projected deficit double what it had originally foreseen."-Tunisian PM 

🇹🇳Tunisia UPDATED Pandemic Control Measures:

-Banning internal travel in most cases, -Suspension of schools until Nov. 8th -Two-week suspension of universities -Ban on protests and public gatherings of more than four people.

A night curfew that was already in place in several regions has been extended across the country and brought forward to start at 8pm instead of 9pm on weekdays, while remaining at 7pm on weekends.


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Tunisia sees rise of “Criminal Violence”

Tunisia: According to the September report of @FT_DES released on Wednesday, October 28th:

“Criminal violence topped the list of forms of violence over the past three months, with a rate of 75.6%, followed by institutional violence, violence in public spaces and then economic violence.”

Tunisia is ranked significantly lower than the UK, France and Germany on the Global Terrorism Index, and heavy government investment has beefed up protective security in major cities and resorts.

Still, sociologist Mohamed Al-Jouili warned of the danger of paving the way for the emergence of a new pattern of crimes, which are not restricted to convicted criminals. “The time span between a simple quarrel and a murder has become very short, which carries negative connotations that invite us to search and look for the underlying causes,” he said.

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Tunisia Security UPDATE

Tunisia: Over 400,000 tourism jobs eliminated after Pandemic Shutdown

Tunisia empty medina.
Global tourism losses due to coronavirus amounted to $460 billion in the first half of the year;

Highlights:

  • Tourism revenue has declined 61 per cent in Tunisia as a result of coronavirus, the Central Bank of Tunisia reported on Friday.
  • tourism industry in the country, which includes more than 1,300 travel agencies and provides 20,000 direct and indirect jobs.
  • 28 per cent of the sector’s workforce were sacked following the imposition of a general quarantine.

Tourism Sector takes MASSIVE hit

October 26, 2020

Tunisians are waking up to the fact that while they may have survived the first wave of the pandemic, their tourism industry is NOT looking good at all. For starters revenue has declined 61 percent!

Tunisian Economy was already in Trouble: Even before the pandemic, Tunisia had suffered a poor economic record, with sluggish growth, high unemployment and declining public services, since its 2011 revolution ended autocratic rule.

It’s no mystery that the North African country depends heavily on its tourism sector for many social economic reasons. Tunisia relies on tourism for foreign currency, jobs, and security.

Bankruptcy threatens about 98 per cent of travel agencies in Tunisia…”

In many ways the the fact that thousands of businesses in Tunisia are declaring bankruptcy is as much a security issue as it is an economic one. Why? More than 4,000 families make a living from the tourism sector in Tunisia.

If the situation does not improve it will lead to civil unrest and increase security risks throughout the country.

Tunisia’s tourism sector is in TROUBLE

An industry expert recently confirmed, the danger of bankruptcy which threatens about 98 per cent of travel agencies in Tunisia if financial support measures approved by the government since the start of the health crisis are not implemented.

This will not surprise those monitoring the situation as we learned in September that global tourism losses due to coronavirus amounted to $460 billion in the first half of the year; that’s a 65% decline in the number of tourists worldwide!

Tunisia Security Outlook

Security Insight: The Tunisian Federation of Travel Agencies (FTAV) held a protest on Tuesday outside the headquarters of the Ministry of Tourism and Handicrafts in the capital, Tunis, to ask authorities to support businesses which are on the verge of closure.

Operational Impact: Moving forward we may start to see more of these types of protests & activities throughout the country in response to the economic hardships and ongoing curfews.

Travel to Tunis may continue while adhering to all security precautions. Consult with us for itinerary-based tactical monitoring and ground support options.

We will continue to monitor the situation in Tunisia by providing up to date analysis and support. Currently, our Security Portal which provides advanced tactical and in-depth forecasting, is proving to be an effective tool for organizations operating in Tunisia.

Request Access to our Security Portal:


@DavidSecurity-Security Awareness

Greetings, my name is David A. Santiago also known as @DavidSecurity and for over 15 years I’ve helped hundreds of organizations, expats, and travelers understand

Security Awareness Program:

A full spectrum Security Awareness Program covers pre-travel training, arrival safety briefing, and ongoing safety/security training for:

  • Business Travelers
  • Expat staff and their families
  • Security conscious travelers

The Challenge 

Life can change in a SPLIT second.  How can you be aware of your surroundings while at the same time have the awareness to identify potential threats? In a fast paced world, where everyday new security, health, and cyber threats are emerging, how can you go about your day in a security conscious manner?  

Answer: Being aware of one’s surroundings and identifying potential threats and dangerous situations. Think AIR! 

  • Aware
  • Inquire 
  • REACT

A Valuable Skill…

The bottom line is that Situational Awareness is more than just a concept, it is a skill you can learn.  A habit you can incorporate into your everyday life without appearing paranoid and ultimately it is a lense that will assist you as you seek to accomplish your mission.

Of course I can write a book on this topic but the best way to experience the power of timely information is to test our service.

Contact us for a FREE DEMO.

Security Risk Management

@DavidSecurity interviewed after an unprecedent attack on an American school in North Africa.

Greetings, my name is David A. Santiago also known as @DavidSecurity and for over 15 years I’ve been assisting organizations operating in HIGH threat environments.

Security without Risk Management is wishful thinking!

My GOAL is to provide organizations with practical and actionable information so that they can operate safely in a cost effective manner.

Security Risk Management is the ongoing process of identifying security risks and implementing plans to address them.

Risk is determined by considering the likelihood that known threats will exploit vulnerabilities and the impact they have on valuable assets. 

Mitigating risk through timely information

Timely & Actionable information allows you to stay ahead of the headlines. It enables your organization to assess risk and take proactive steps that will keep your business operations steady in a chaotic world.

With the support of our network and security partners, we are able to provide an in-depth knowledge of the region or regions you’re working in, along with updates and insights on issues and trends that can directly affect your business.

Of course I can write a book on this topic but the best way to experience the power of timely information is to test our service.

Contact us for a FREE DEMO.

How Tunisia went from Pandemic Success to Regional Curfews…

Article Highlights:

  • Tunisia chooses regional curfews instead of a country wide shutdown.
  • Tunisia’s Prime Minister on Monday ordered a curfew starting from Tuesday in all regions of the country.
  • Coronavirus cases are surging in Tunisia, which had managed to contain the virus earlier in the year.

Tunisia Pandemic Success

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

On Monday, October 20th Tunisia’s Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi had to address the media to clarify an important point. Over the weekend various media outlets reported that Tunisia would enforce a country wide curfew. This rang alarm bells for many including security professionals like myself that monitor the situation in Tunisia from a security risk management perspective.

Coronavirus cases have been surging in Tunisia, which had managed to contain the virus earlier in the year, and have now reached more than 40,000.

Tunisia Under Regional Curfew

Instead of a country wide curfew, the Prime Minster stated that he gave governors the power to order Regional Curfews in response to the surge of coronavirus cases.

Tunisia’s Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi on Monday gave regional governors the power to order curfews starting from Tuesday to combat the coronavirus pandemic, his office said.
  • Much of Tunisia is under a curfew in effect from 21:00 to 05:00 (local time) Monday to Friday, with a longer 19:00 to 05:00 curfew in place at weekends, for 15 days until October 23.
  • Face masks remain mandatory in public places nationwide. Schools remain closed though universities have reopened following strict hygiene measures. Nonessential businesses are permitted to resume operations at 70 percent capacity. Restaurants and cafes have reopened, following social distancing regulations. Public transport is also operating at 50 percent capacity. 

Early Celebration?

Not too long ago Tunisia was receiving praise from many media outlets and world leaders for their successful response to the first wave of the pandemic.

Here’s a headline from June 15th: Tunisia has beaten coronavirus: prime minister, Elyes Fakhfakh announces country’s victory over COVID-19.

For months, Tunisia was viewed as one of the first countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) to successfully contain the coronavirus outbreak. I even wrote an article about how the “Tunisian Model” could potentially be used by the travel industry as a case study of how to operate post COVID.

The country recorded zero new cases for five consecutive days starting May 11, completed its deconfinement plan between May 4 and June 14, opened its borders for tourism starting June 27, and resumed normal economic activity.

By August I was ringing the alarm bells!

As of July 17, Tunisia had performed over 81,300 tests. It had recorded 1,327 total contaminations, 1,093 recovered patients, and 50 total deaths. Compared to the rest of the region, Tunisia has good COVID-19 mortality and recovery rates (3.8 percent and 82.4 percent respectively). 

What Happened?

The first cases recorded in Tunisia was in early March. Giving credit where credit is due the government responded swiftly with a comprehensive set of measures aiming to slow the virus’ progression. The Tunisian response included:

  • Suspension of all travel,
  • mandated working from home for non-essential workers,
  • closed mosques, imposed mandatory confinement and nightly curfews,
  • shut down schools and businesses, and banned public gatherings.
  • Military and police forces were tasked with ensuring that these instructions were followed.

And then Summer happened…

On June 27, Tunisia reopened the country’s international land, sea, and air borders. Tunisia’s Minister of Tourism Mohamed Ali Toumi has tried to reassure foreigners that the country is ready and safe for tourism while promoting the country’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The chains of the virus transmission are primarily linked to gatherings, including weddings. Chains of transmission have also been observed in some factories.”-Nissaf Ben Alaya, director general of the National Observatory for New and Emerging Diseases

Moving Forward

Tunisia hopes that by giving regional governors the power to order curfews they will restrict night time gatherings without shutting what is left of their economy.

As if the pandemic wasn’t bad enough, Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi said on Sunday that his country is undergoing a critical financial situation as a result of the ongoing stifling crisis which has led to a reduction in the 2021 budget. 

This will only make the situation even more challenging!

We will continue to monitor the situation in Tunisia by providing up to date analysis and support. Currently, our COVID-19 Security Portal which provides advanced tactical and in-depth forecasting, is proving to be an effective tool for organizations operating in Tunisia.

Request Access to our COVID-19 Security Portal:


5 Cybersecurity Tips for everyday “Dummies”

Cyber-attacks are getting more and ore complicated…

Nobody likes to be called a dummy.  Especially a well educated professional like yourself but what if I was able to convince you that when it comes to Cybersecurity, taking the “dummy approach” may be your best mitigation strategy.  

The numbers are alarming.  According to the FBI the number of complaints about cyberattacks to their Cyber Division is up to as many as 4,000 a day. That represents a 400% increase from what they were seeing pre-coronavirus.

The Challenge

The headlines don’t lie, cyber-criminals are intensifying their attacks and going for everything from personal information to consumer data. While they may not have any ethics, they are not stupid.  

Let me ask you a question: If you had to pick a house to break into.  Would you pick house#1 with the state of the art security, anti-climb fence, and K-9s? Or house#2 with the windows slightly open, mail piled up, and no car in the garage?  

Pretty easy choice..wouldn’t you agree? 

Cybercriminals think the same way.  While it is true that each day more and more companies are experiencing increasingly sophisticated attacks, cybercriminals are always on the lookout for easy targets

Online, the easiest targets are individuals and usually small businesses that take little to no precautions.  

Enter the Dummy Approach

Let’s face it cybersecurity is COMPLICATED. Disagree?  Well consider this:

  • There is a hack attack every 39 seconds. 
  • Around 94% of all malware is spread through email. 
  • 300,000 thousand new pieces of malware are created daily.
  •  95% of cybersecurity breaches are due to human error.

The fact is that we are living in a fast paced and ever complicated world.  There’s simply too many threats and too much information for us to catch up. Instead of trying to keep up with everything we can approach cybersecurity as a Dummy. Please allow me to explain. 

When I said like a “dummy”, I use the term as an avid reader of the Dummies series. They are extensive series of instructional/reference books which are intended to present non-intimidating guides for readers new to a particular topic.  

“Dummies has always stood for taking on complex concepts and making them easy to understand.”

Now, this article is by no means a review of the excellent book Cybersecurity for dummies. More than just reading a book, the point we are making is that when it comes to Cybersecurity the “dummies approach” is effective. The genius about the Dummies series is that they empower readers with actionable knowledge that they can apply to their daily lives.   

With that, here 5 Cybersecurity for Dummies Tips that will help you cyber-protect yourself, family and business. 

5 Helpful Cybersecurity for Dummies tips…

  • 1. Acknowledge the Risk: Cybersecurity for Dummies makes a simple yet alarming claim:
    “Every person, business, organization, and government entity is a potential target for hackers. People who think that they do not have anything of value and “why would hackers want to attack me?” often act without proper diligence and learn quite quickly how wrong their perspective is.”
    Dummy Tip#1: By acknowledging the risk you are more likely to take practical measures to protect yourself.
  • 2. Passwords Are Important: A recent study on passwords showed that “despite ubiquitous warnings not to do so, a large number of people still use weak passwords such as “123456” or “password”.

    Dummy Tip#2: Avoid weak passwords. Even better use multi-factor authentication when it is available. Multi-factor authentication should be used whenever possible because it immediately neutralizes the risks associated with compromised passwords by adding an additional layer of security to protect highly sensitive personal information.
  • 3. Don’t go cheap: The average hack can be easily prevented with a base level of awareness and effective software.  Modern security software dramatically increase the odds of a person fending off a whole slew of potential cybersecurity problems, including malware, breaches, spam overloads, and others. Add on a strong cybersecurity awareness foundation and you have yourself a fordable cybersecurity posture.

    Dummy Tip#3: You owe it to yourself, your family, and your business to invest in the latest software and cybersecurity awareness training.

Cybersecurity has never been more challenging than it is today and with new threats arising daily it is only going to get more complicated. While this may seem overwhelming at first, there is a lot we can do to reduce the risks we face.

By adopting a practical yet effective approach as outlined in Cybersecurity for Dummies we can strengthen our cyberscurity posture without be an IT professional.

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