EasyJet has confirmed it will return to Tunisia next year, with the country’s tourist board confident of recovering much of the capacity lost from the collapse of Thomas Cook in time for summer 2020.
The budget carrier pulled its Tunisia programme after 30 British tourists were gunned down on a beach near Sousse in June 2015.
However, easyJet last week announced twice-weekly scheduled flights to Enfidha would get under way on 2 May 2020 flying from Gatwick on Wednesdays and Saturdays, utilising the Cook slots it acquired last month.
Wahida Jaiet, director UK and Ireland at the Tunisian National Tourist Office (TNTO), told TTG easyJet’s return to Tunisia was agreed following a meeting at WTM London (4-6 November), adding TNTO would embark on an “aggressive” trade marketing campaign next year to ensure flights are full.
“It’s very good news,” said Jaiet. “Thomas Cook has left a lot of empty space – it was the bulk of our charter activity. EasyJet was aware of that and I was aware I had to fill the gap. It’s all part of our strategy to catch up with Cook’s collapse.”
Jaiet revealed Tunisia had so far secured 40 weekly flights for summer 2020 from 13 UK airports, down from 44 this summer inclusive of Cook’s flights, and that she was hopeful that number would yet grow, especially if there was strong early demand for easyJet’s flights. Easyjet Holidays is yet to confirm if its programme will include Tunisia.
However, Jaiet poured cold water on a summer 2020 Ryanair programme, despite positive talks with the budget carrier, and she also played down a return to Tunisia for Jet2.com after it also pulled its programme following the Sousse attack.
Tui will provide more than half of Tunisia’s summer 2020 capacity with 25 flights, followed by Tunisair (seven), Nouvelair (six) and easyJet (two).
“I have a gap in the north,” said Jaiet. “We’re missing a player in Newcastle and Durham. We really need people departing from there.”
Jaiet added that despite Cook’s collapse, Tunisia remained on course to exceed its 200,000 UK visitor target this year.
And while acknowledging this figure would inevitably fall next year, she was confident that as long as departures hit typical load factors of around 85%, 150,000 UK visitors was a realistic ambition for 2020.
EasyJet's decision to return to Tunisia is a huge statement of faith – and potentially of intent. Faith, first and foremost, in Tunisia's efforts to guarantee high standards of health and safety, hygiene, and critically security. And of intent in so much as Tunisia has the potential to become a key part of easyJet's recently relaunched package holiday operation. Tunisia's troubles have been far from its own making; it deserves this break, and we should applaud easyJet for backing a destination with so much to offer.