In June 2015, 38 people lost their lives on the popular Port El Kantaoui resort in Tunisia, 30 of which were British tourists.
After the attack, the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office issued a travel ban warning people not to visit the country; this was changed in late July.
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However, despite the change in advice it seems British tourists are unlikely to return to the North African country in large numbers.
GlobalData estimates that the United Kingdom is Tunisia’s third largest European inbound market, behind France and Germany.
But, between 2015 and 2014 the number British tourists visiting the country fell by 36 percent and fell a further 86 percent between 2016 and 2015.
The foreign office’s advice remains cautious, starting “terrorists remain very likely to carry out attacks in Tunisia, as in many other countries”, but did highlight improvements by the Tunisian security forces as a reason for the change in advice.
The end of the travel ban will likely cause British tourists to return to the country, but the recovery in numbers will be gradual as other factors will have a greater impact on influencing where Brits decide to travel.
The main challenge for the country’s tourist industry is building enough confidence for airlines to re-open air routes; Thomas Cook recently announced it will restart its flight and holiday programme for the first time since the attack, beginning on the 13 February 2018.
If more airlines follow suit then the number of tourists visiting the country should begin to recover.
Speaking at TTG Media’s debate “What’s the future for Tunisia’s tourism industry?” held in London last week, Can Deniz, managing director of Just Sunshine Holidays, stated that for the number of British tourists to recover to pre-attack levels routes from regional airports need to also re-open.
British tourists are more likely to travel to the country if there is a flight from their nearest airport; as opposed to travelling to London or Manchester.
But, airlines are likely to see how consumers respond to the re-opening of major routes first and regional routes will be phased in if there proves to be the demand.
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Tunisia was previously popular among British tourists as a cheap destination for luxury all-inclusive holidays: to have the same experience in Europe it costs a lot more.
Therefore, tourists are going to have to weigh up the risk versus the price, and as more time passes since the attack it is likely a larger number of people will take the risk.
However, essential to this recovery will be the reopening of routes by low-cost carriers, as many LCC airlines currently fly to other countries in the region, such as Morocco, and this makes Tunisia less competitive as a destination.
There are signs that Tunisia’s tourism industry is recovering: GlobalData expects international arrivals to grow by two percent in 2017.
The Tunisian National Tourist Office recorded 4.6m visitors in the first eight months of 2017, compared to 2.9m for the same period last year.
British travellers are likely to return to Tunisia, but the recovery in numbers will be slow and the re-opening of low cost airline routes will be essential to encourage them to return.