Thomas Cook has become the first major UK-based tour operator to return to Tunisia following an extended hiatus.
Here Carol MacKenzie, group head of customer welfare for the company, gives her views on travel to the destination.
At the end of July this year, the UK government changed its advice for Tunisia meaning that British holidaymakers can now travel to the majority of the country.
As a result, and reflecting the interest we’ve had from customers, we are restarting our flight and holiday programme from February 13th next year, which is on sale from today.
We’re starting in just a few resorts, mainly near to Hammamet, and only eight hotels, where we’re confident we can offer the high quality our customers expect.
We benefit from having had a holiday programme and resort team in place for our German, Belgian and French customers, whose governments did not recommend against travel to Tunisia.
This means we can have confidence that our customers will be looked after with the same high standards – and have the same reassurance of our customer care – that they expect in all Thomas Cook destinations.
Tunisia has been a popular tourist destination for decades.
Thomas Cook first opened an office there in 1902 and in the fifties a thriving tourism industry emerged along its sandy Mediterranean coastline and cosmopolitan capital Tunis.
Following a period of growth which started in the 1990s, by 2010 it was welcoming seven million foreign tourists a year.
It has been a popular destination for our customers too.
Thomas Cook took more than 200,000 UK holidaymakers to Tunisia in 2014 across the summer and winter seasons.
However, in June 2015 tragedy struck when a gunman killed thirty eight people at a beachfront hotel in Sousse, thirty of whom were British tourists.
In the intervening two years since that very sad day, the Tunisian government has worked to improve its security and the way its police and security teams can respond to terrorist incidents.
It is this work which meant that the UK government were able to announce that they are now satisfied that British travellers can return to the country.
Although the FCO continues to advise against travel to some parts of the Tunisian interior and along its borders, this does not affect the resorts which are some distance away.
The UK government said that as well as having improved security in tourist resorts: “Tunisian security forces have also improved and are better prepared to tackle terrorist threats than they were at the time of the 2015 attacks.”
When I visited Tunisia recently, I noticed the increase in security presence on the hotel beaches, and the holidaymakers I spoke to talked of the good, friendly relationship they have with the hotel security and police who patrol the beach and tourist areas.
It was also clear how closely the hotels and the police work together, and their excitement about the British customers returning to their country.
We always follow UK government advice on where we can offer flights and holidays, because they are the experts in security.
We also listen to our customers in where they want to go on holiday.
Since it closed for British holidaymakers two years ago, we’ve had lots of customers asking us when Tunisia will be back on sale.
Its soft, long beaches with year-round sun, historic ruins and enchanting desert villages make Tunisia a destination that attracts lots of loyal visitors.
Please remember that like other popular North African tourist destinations Morocco and Egypt, the UK government also warns that “further attacks remain likely, including in places visited by foreigners such as tourist resorts”.
Taking your loved ones anywhere is a serious decision and ultimately of course it’s up to you where you choose to go on holiday.
You should always consult FCO travel advice before making your decision.
Whichever Thomas Cook holiday you choose, you can always be assured that your safety is our first priority.