TUNIS- Tunisia's foreign currency reserves rose to 17.2 billion dinars, the equivalent of 96 days of imports, official data showed on Thursday, driven by the recovery of the tourism sector and the first opening of foreign exchange bureaus.
It was the first time in nearly two years that reserves had reached that level. Tunisia's foreign exchange reserves were below 11 billion dinars a year ago, equal to only 71 days of imports, the central bank said.
Tourism revenues in the first seven months of this year grew to 2.7 billion dinars from 1.9 billion dinars in the same period last year, central bank figures showed.
Tunisia expects to receive a record 9 million tourists by the end of 2019 after recovering from the impact of Islamist attacks targeting tourists in 2015.
Officials said the opening of 25 foreign exchange bureaus since March had also helped the increase in foreign currency stocks.
Currency purchases from these bureaus in June was about 7 billion dinars compared with 5 billion in May.
Previously people had had to use banks or the black market to buy currency.
Tunisia's central bank has agreed to set up another 20 new bureaus, increasing the total to 45.
The North African country's economy has been in crisis since the toppling of autocrat Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, with unemployment and inflation shooting up. It has struggled with tough economic reforms to reduce public spending.
(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Alison Williams ) ((firstname.lastname@example.org))