A British holidaymaker has become a local hero at two Tunisian resorts targeted in an Islamist attack, after he set up a crowdfunding campaign aimed at helping hotel staff facing an uncertain working future because of the subsequent downfall in tourism.
Personnel at beach-side resorts stormed by jihadi militant Seifeddine Rezgui in June, praised Nathan Priestley, 21, after he raised almost £12,000 (€17,000, $19,000) via online fundraising to compensate them for their bravery during the shooting.
"We are very proud," a hotel worker who preferred to remain anonymous told IBTimes UK. "It's a very human gesture."
Priestley, a personal trainer from Norwich, said he wanted to reward staff at the Imperial Marhaba and Bellevue hotels of Sousse, after it emerged many paid little heed to their own safety to chase the gunman or shelter holidaymakers.
"Some formed human shields to protect tourists," he told IBTimes UK. "These sort of heroic acts made me think they were not really getting the coverage or the praising they deserve."
Hundreds of people donated funds
The Norfolk man had witnessed the situation first-hand, as he was staying at Imperial Marhaba when the shooting erupted, although he was not directly caught up in the violence having left the premises a little earlier.
Hundreds of people, including some former guests, chipped in after he posted an appeal on the Gofundme website, which soon surpassed the initial target of £1,000.
"My late husband and I stayed here a few years ago. It could have been us, and I'm sure the staff who gave us a good holiday probably still work there," wrote donor Susan Banham.
Some 38 people, mostly Britons, were killed in the attack, which has been claimed by Islamic State (Isis).
"Thank you for your bravery. Our thoughts are with everyone affected. Words are simply not enough," wrote Cheryl Ogden, another donor.
Priestley's initiative was hailed by hotel workers, as some now are afraid they might lose their jobs if tourists continue to desert Tunisia out of fear of more attacks.
A member of staff said they were initially reassured by the property no one would lose their job, but later heard the hotel was facing money issues.
"We have heard that there is no money for the hotel, the situation is bad and we don't know what is going to happen," the worker told IBTimes UK.
IBTimes UK contacted RIU Hotels & Resorts, the company running the two hotels for a comment but received no reply at the time of publishing.
Priestley, who decided to complete his holiday declining to be repatriated immediately after the massacre, described Sousse as a "ghost town" in the days that followed.
"It was quite of sombre and unsettling to still be there. You could tell that the staff was still distraught and very emotional," he said, adding that, despite what happened, he would like to visit again in the future.
"The people are so friendly and welcoming and it is a shame that a lot of people are scared to travel there now because of one extremist."
He said he is going to keep the crowdfunding page open for donations for another week, hoping to draw some more donations. "Ideally [reaching] £15,000 would be fantastic," he said.
The funds will then be transferred to a bank account set up by the hotel management and evenly distributed among 80 workers who were on duty when the attack unfolded, he said, adding four people will need to be present for the money to be withdrawn.
An average Tunisian salary in the tourism sector is of about £400 a month.