The Tunisia National Tourist Office has called on the UK government to give it a ‘glimmer of hope’ that the travel ban to the destination will be lifted in the near future.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office has advised against all but essential travel to Tunisia since the beach massacre on June 26, 2015, when 38 tourists were killed, including 30 British nationals, in a terrorist attack at Port El Kantaoui near Sousse.
Sami Tounsi, UK trade manager for the TNTO, said: “It is unprecedented to keep a destination out of business for such a long time. We feel we are being penalised and sending a message to the terrorists that they are winning.”
Tounsi said the tourist office did not expect the UK to lift the ban completely but stressed: “We have to find a balance. If the government could at least lift the ban partially that would give us some hope – a light at the end of the tunnel. They are not saying anything to us; we are not getting any feedback from the British government.”
He cited the example of Tui Germany, which is to offer holidays on the Tunisian island of Djerba for summer 2017 on two Tunisair flights a week.
Tounsi added that the tourism industry – which relies on European tourism revenues to pay for 50%-60% of its imports – had taken great strides to tighten security since the terrorist attack.
“We are embracing a new culture of safety and security. Hotels have put up cameras and use metal detectors and there are more security checks. We are ready for the day the ban is lifted,” he said.
But he conceded that publicity surrounding the inquests into the deaths of 31 British tourists, due to take place from January, could further damage business and hit the travel industry as a whole. He added: “My worry is beyond Tunisia; this will harm the industry as a whole. This will bring the industry to its knees.”
Britain was the second biggest international market to Tunisia before the terrorist attack in June 2015, with 425,000 Brits visiting the destination in 2014. This year, up to October 20, around 18,000 Brits have visited.
The local market in Tunisia and Algeria now accounts for 30% to 40% of hotel occupancy while the Russian market has increased, with 600,000 visiting the country so far this year.
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