Tunisia is looking to boost its tourism industry with a new campaign that plays up its role as the real-life desert planet Tatooine. Between 1977 and 2005, seven Tunisian cities were used as stand-ins for Tatooine, across five of the six Star Wars films. But since the Arab Spring erupted in 2011, the number of tourists has dropped dramatically. As Justin Scuiletti at PBS Newshour reports, there are eery similarities between Tunisia and its fictional counterpart: “Since the films’ releases — the first three of which featured rebels fighting against the oppressive Galactic Empire — Tunisia had an uprising of its own: kickstarting the Arab Spring by overthrowing longterm President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.”
Before the uprising, Tunisia’s tourism industry employed around 400,000 people and was worth 7 percent of the GDP. But violence across North Africa and the Middle East caused many people to deem the country too dangerous, and although numbers have improved, visitors are still down nine percent since 2010. Tunisia’s Star Wars fan club joined forces (sorry) with the Tunisian National Office for Tourism on Wednesday for the campaign’s first official event, which featured marauding gangs of stormtroopers. Boba Fett and Darth Vader also made an appearance. “We did this campaign to take advantage of these sets, which are unique in the world the only sites from the movies remaining,” Zied Chargui, director of tourism, told the Associated Press.
Below is a delightful video of Tunisia’s Star Wars enthusiasts in and around the locations, which was filmed in March. Hopefully watching it while reading about the new cast of the upcoming Star Wars sequel will make you forget all about the song they’re dancing to.