The lifting by the Foreign Office of its travel advice for most of Tunisia gives a long-awaited green light to UK travel firms to return to the country, and good reason for local hoteliers, restaurateurs and other businesses that rely on tourists to celebrate.
We Brits have lost a little of our shine as a source market in the intervening years. Since 2015, our weakened pound has hit our spending ability, and Brits have become a liability in the eyes of any all-inclusive hotelier stung by false sickness claims. So you could understand Tunisia having warmed more to the Germans and Italians in our absence – and yet the desire to welcome us back seems as strong as ever.
But two weeks on from the FCO announcement, it’s unclear how quickly tour operators will recommence their programmes to the destination. The summer season will be over soon, and even charters for winter 2017-18 are committed elsewhere, so it could be almost a year before the big players are able to return.
Specialist operators tell us this week that they’d like to secure more airlift sooner if possible, so that tourists don’t have to wait so long. It’s also encouraging to hear Tunisair’s ambitions for 2018 – including charter flights from regional airports in the UK.
In the coming months the tourist board will no doubt ramp up its activity to get Tunisia back on the radar for British tourists so they are poised to book when programmes go on sale. But as the tourist board has told us many times, it will be travel agents that really help Tunisia get back on its feet – by talking confidently to their customers about security developments and encouraging their clients to discover or rediscover a country so ready to welcome us with open arms.