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Tunisia: will the wave of solidarity be reflected in travel orders?

The advices to travelers by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have not been modified


Tunisia received many calls of solidarity after the deadly attacks that have left the country mourning, on Wednesday March 18th, 2015. It’s left to know if this support will translate into reservations for next summer.



One of the many photos of support to Tunisia published on social networks. DR -Facebook.
One of the many photos of support to Tunisia published on social networks. DR -Facebook.
#jeSuisBardo.

Since the attacks that have left Tunisia mourning on Wednesday March 18, 2015, this hashtag is flourishing on social networks, following the model of #jesuischarlie, invented after the attacks on the Parisian newspaper early January 2015.

The international community is mobilizing this way to support Tunisians, after the tragic events at the Bardo museum, where 21 people died, including two French citizens.

This virtual support translated into many acts of empathy on Thursday March 19th, at the World Tourism Fair.

Matthias Fekl, Tourism State Secretary even changed his agenda to meet with Leila Tekaia, Director of ONTT. He took advantage to incite French citizens to keep going abroad.

“It was very moving. The majority of tourism office directors came to our stand along with many tour-operators to express their solidarity,” she explains.

The professionals who came to the stand are surprised by this wave of support. “I am very moved by all of this acts of solidarity. I even received some reservations this morning,” recounts Muriel le Gal, who works for l’Envie de Tunisie.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not changed its advices to travelers section and doesn’t expect on doing so soon, to avoid provoking panic.

Little cancelations within travel agencies

But will that be sufficient to reassure client? Anita, a dashing retiree, goes to the country every year and she is not considering changing her habits.

“We’re being told that it is well protected, so I’ll go back, because I love Djerba, and I refuse to let the terrorists win.”

At her side, Sylvette, 80 years old, admits being more worried. “I feel a lot of pain for Tunisians, but I’m much too afraid, and I don’t think I’ll go there this year.”

They were both attending a conference organized by Fram during the Trade Fair, meant to promote the Djerba island.

“We had programmed this presentation for a few weeks. It would have been unthinkable to cancel it at the last minute,” explains Thierry Jacques, Promotion Director at Fram.

He assures that no clients has canceled trips, and he intends on maintaining the operation of his two Framissima. Same observation at Look Voyages, that is seeing zero cancellations, neither at the stand no within agencies.

More generally, the members of SETO express that their clients are not panicked.

“We know by experience that people rarely cancel their trips at the last minutes,” insures René-Marc Chikli, its President. “The only unknown is: will they reserve again?”


Matthias Fekl, Tourism State Secretary, showed his support to  Leila Tekaia, Director of ONTT - DR : ONTT
Matthias Fekl, Tourism State Secretary, showed his support to Leila Tekaia, Director of ONTT - DR : ONTT

Excursions of travel companies have been suspended until further notice

While Tunisia was starting to get in better shape, it still had a decrease of 19% in summer orders, according to the last figures given by the union.

As a safeguard and to foresee eventual moments of panic, the SETO decided to apply regular penalties should people cancel. A very pragmatic way of reasoning with those who may have unfounded doubts and fears.

The union is also talking to local authorities to put in place measures that would protect touristic sites. Meanwhile, all excursions have been suspended until further notice.

“I think that the government is going to put in place a type of Vigipirate plan (anti-terrorist measure - translator’s note) that will reassure travelers and that should maintain visits,” hopes René-Marc Chikli.

He also incites tour-operators to keep on with their ground and air transport commitments to see how clients react.

On their end, cruising company, especially Costa and MSC of which the casualties count is quite heavy, have chosen to not have any more stop-overs in Tunisian ports.

There are currently 1,200 clients of tour-operators in the whole country. Travelers that no one is thinking repatriating.

“BFM asked me asking me why we weren’t making our clients return to France urgently. That’s none sense, there’s no reason to undergo such a procedure.

This dramatic event could have happened anywhere, even in France,” exclaims a Tour-Operator we passed by in the Fair.

Because unfortunately, terrorist threats are now global and no country seems to be safe from a act of folly by an extremist minority.

A reality with which travelers and tourism professionals must learn to live with.

Written by Laury-Anne CHOLEZ translated by Joséphine Foucher the 24/03/2015
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Tags : Tunisia

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