“We are hurting – financially and emotionally.” That was the assessment from Tunisia’s UK tourism chief after the collapse of Thomas Cook dealt a fresh blow to the destination’s tourism recovery.
Cook was the first British operator to return to Tunisia after the Sousse terror attack, and its failure will leave a €70 million hole in the country’s tourism industry, according to Wahida Jaiet, UK and Ireland director of the Tunisia National Tourist Office.
Cook customers comprised around 100,000 of Tunisia’s 180,000 UK guests so far this year, and Jaiet said hopes of reaching 300,000 in 2020 had now “fallen apart”.
Tunisian tourism is still recovering from the 2015 atrocity, in which 30 British Tui customers were murdered, and which took the country off the tourism map until the Foreign Office changed its advice in July 2017.
TTG was onboard Thomas Cook’s first flight to Tunisia in February 2018.
Hopes are now turning to attracting a partnership with another major travel brand, although Jaiet said talk of bringing Jet2 to its shores was currently “just wishful thinking”.
She said the main focus for Tunisia was to allow Cook guests still in the destination to enjoy the rest of their stay and try to eke back some money for its hoteliers from Cook’s liquidators.
“We want to make sure that Thomas Cook’s failure is not the customers’ memory of Tunisia and that they had an amazing experience – we need them to want to come back now more than ever.”
The gap left by Cook could provide “a real opportunity” for smaller tour operators, Jaiet said.
“We must be positive and work hard to bring more British people back to Tunisia despite this blow to our plans,” she added.