Travel and tourism workers in Tunisia staged a demonstration in the capital Tunis on Saturday demanding security and stability for the sector.

Hotel operators, travel agents and other workers from the industry joined the protest outside the tourism and interior ministries before marching to the national assembly building.

The protest followed several days of riots in Tunis and other parts of the country which led to a curfew imposed last Tuesday. The curfew was lifted late on Friday.

The riots were triggered by Islamist protests at an art exhibition reported to include works offensive to some. The riots were out of keeping with Tunisia’s reputation for religious tolerance.

French news agency AFP reported 200 tourism workers joined the demonstration under the slogan “No tourism without security”.

The protest was supported by the Tunisian travel agents’ federation. AFP quoted Mohamed-Ali Toumi, head of the federation, saying: “We are here to demand the necessary security for our sector, which is vital to Tunisia’s economy.”

He added: “Things are calm, but if the violence returns the tourist season will be catastrophic.”

A federation spokesman said: “The impact of images of violence is immediate and almost irreparable among western clients.”

Tunisia drew 4.8 million visitors last year following the overthrow of president Ben Ali in January which began the Arab Spring, down from seven million in 2010. Tourism authorities have been hoping to get back to six million this year.

The sector employs 400,000 people in Tunisia and accounts for 7% of the country’s GDP.