Tunisia's Tourism Plunged 40 Pct Amid Jan. Unrest

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) - Tunisia's new tourism minister says tourism revenues and visits in the North African country have plunged by 40 percent in January during a popular uprising that toppled its longtime president.

Mehdi Haouas also says February could bring bigger declines for an industry that makes up more than six percent of Tunisia's economic output and employs about 400,000 people - or four percent of the total population.

The minister told reporters Friday that he was optimistic for the long term because of an improving security situation, and he encouraged foreigners to return.

Haouas took his post last week in a second government shake-up aimed at appeasing protesters who wanted to keep allies of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali out of power. Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia on Jan. 14.