‘We are setting up a really good quality offer for Tunisia and this is going to take some time’
Britain’s second-biggest tour operator is set to run package holidays to Tunisia “towards the spring”, according to the company’s boss.
On Wednesday the Foreign Office took Tunisia of the “no-go” list, giving a green light to UK holiday companies to run trips to the North African destination once more. The ban had been in force for two years following the murder of 38 people, including 30 British holidaymakers, at a hotel in the resort of Sousse.
Peter Fankhauser, chief executive of Thomas Cook, said: “The Foreign Office came to the conclusion that it is again safe to travel. We are setting up a really good-quality offer for Tunisia and this is going to take some time. I suppose that we are going to start during the winter season, but more towards the spring.”
Prior to the ban, Thomas Cook was the market leader to Tunisia, sending more than 200,000 passengers a year.
Mounira Ben Cherifa, director of the Tunisian National Tourist Office in the UK, said: “We will be communicating with all of our tour operators to see how quickly we can get airlift reinstated.” Tunisair has continued to fly from the UK to the capital, Tunis, and currently flies daily from either Heathrow or Gatwick.
Just Sunshine, the leading Tunisian specialist operator, hopes to have holidays on sale by next week. The managing director, Can Deniz, told The Independent: “We’ve had calls coming in from people enquiring about when tours are going to start. All the hotel contracts are in place. We are in talks with Tunisair to seek allocation on their services into Tunis.”
French, German and Italian tourists have returned in large numbers in 2017, with 228,000 from France alone up to 10 July this year. The Tunisian National Tourist Office says almost 12,000 British travellers have arrived in the country. Until now, most will have found that their travel insurance is not valid because of the Foreign Office warning.
Mr Fankhauser was speaking after Thomas Cook released its third-quarter financial results. He said that holidaymakers were returning in large numbers to Turkey, after the country saw a slump due to security concerns. “The pick-up in demand for Turkey we reported earlier in the year has continued, as customers are attracted to the quality and value on offer,” he said.