Cook collapse sees Tunisia lose half of UK visitors overnight
Published on Friday, September 27, 2019
Thomas Cook’s failure has left Tunisian hotels €70 million out of pocket and has hit the destination hard, just as it was starting to ‘breath’ again.
Speaking with TravelMole at an Antor event last night, an emotional Wahida Jaiet, UK director of the Tunisian National Tourist Office, said Tunisia had lost half of its UK business and potentially 30% of its Germany business literally overnight.
According to its hotels association, Thomas Cook owes €70 million to around 40 hotels, some of which were exclusive to Cook customers.
Following terror attacks in Tunis and the beach attack in Sousse, which killed 38 people including 30 TUI customers, the FCO had temporarily banned travel to Tunisia. It wasn’t until last year that UK operators had started to go back.
“Hoteliers had just stared breathing again, they had oxygen again after what happened in 2015 and now this. It’s not fair,” said Jaiet.
“The situation is not good. It will be very damaging. Every hotelier now has to assess their invoices and appeal to the liquidators. It will take time because there are so many other hotels around the world owed money.”
Outlining the importance of Thomas Cook to the country’s tourism, Jaiet said 107,000 of the 180,000 UK visitors to Tunisia this summer were travelling with Thomas Cook.
“Tunisian hotels had spent a lot of money to win back the British tourists after 2015. I am sure every single one working with Thomas Cook has put a fortune into their business,” she said.
“We didn’t see this collapse coming at all. We were expecting some rescue plan and thought there might be a glimmer of hope.”
She said the British ambassador has already held a crisis meeting with hoteliers to discuss what mechanisms will be put in place to cover this debt.
The tourist industry is also asking for special measures from the Tunisian Government to help manage the crisis.
“We still don’t know what will or can be done,” she said.
“I assume that some of the business will be bought by TUI, but it will take time, and who is going to take on the airline? If it is bought, it will take time to start bringing tourists back. Tunisia is an early booking market and we are losing these early bookings.”
A further problem for Tunisia is that Thomas Cook offered charter flights from many UK regional airports, some of which aren’t served by TUI or any other companies.
Tunisia only has seven scheduled flight a week from the UK, operated by Tunis Air from Heathrow and Gatwick.