The UK head of the Tunisian National Tourist Office has called on the UK government to soften its travel advice for the country one year on from the terrorist attack in Sousse that left 30 Britons dead.
Tarek Aouadi, UK director of the Tunisian National Tourist Office, said security was paramount but he had not expected the Foreign Office’s (FCO) advice against all but essential travel to most of the country to still be in place.
His comments came as the North African country announced this week it was extending its state of emergency by a month until July 21.
This gives exceptional powers to the authorities, including a ban on strikes and the closure of public venues. It was initially imposed after the June 26 massacre.
Aouadi said the state of emergency had been extended to help implement security measures.
He said: “There is also a state of emergency in France and this has had no apparent impact on the decision of hundreds of thousands of British people to travel there to watch the football,” he said.
He noted “the irony” that Thomas Cook, which cannot fly UK customers to Tunisia, can take German clients.
“If the FCO ban softens, I have plans to host mega-fam trips for Thomas Cook and Tui agents to see the changes, because those companies’ customers represent 92% of UK tourists,” said Aouadi.
“The FCO knows what it is doing. Human lives have been lost and security must come first. But we didn’t expect it to be this long. Banning a destination gives a sign to the terrorists they are winning.
“We are not asking the FCO to lift it 100%, because there is still a lot of work to be done. Softening the ban would give the authorities a chance to continue their work and give Tunisians a glimmer of hope.”
Industry consultant Andy Cooper said: “The FCO is not convinced that we have reached that position (of safety); until we do, mass-market tourism from the UK will not restart. Inevitably, even when it does, tourists will not immediately surge back; there will be a prolonged period of rebuilding confidence in Tunisia.”
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