Thomas Cook resumes flights to Tunisia

BBC News
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Tour operator Thomas Cook is resuming flights to Tunisia for UK customers for the first time since the 2015 beach attack in which 30 Britons were killed.

Three full planes, each carrying 220 passengers, are flying to Enfidha this week after the Foreign and Commonwealth Office eased its travel advice.

The FCO had advised against all but essential visits following the attack.

Security has been increased at hotels and resorts in the country, which attracted 440,000 UK visitors in 2014.

Thomas Cook has continued to fly German, French and Belgian holidaymakers to Tunisia, because their governments did not issue similar advice.

The company has been receiving feedback from these tourists and chief executive Peter Fankhauser told BBC Radio 4's Today programme they said the security guards were "very friendly and nice to them".

He added: "They don't feel they are in a military zone and feel they can enjoy their holidays."

Mr Fankhauser said his company was doing its best to make UK tourists feel at ease in Tunisia.

"It would be foolish of me to say that any destination is 100% safe, but what I can say is that we have taken time to make the decision to prepare our programme.

"It's a modest programme and we offer 10 hotels which are really up to our standards.

"We are confident we have done everything we can do as a tour operator to make the holiday experience as nice as possible for our customers.

"People who were boarding our first flight said they were excited to go back."

A Thomas Cook spokesman told the BBC they had not needed to discount prices to attract people to visit Tunisia.

"We've always had good demand for these holidays and Tunisia has always been a good value destination," he said.

He added that the company had so far taken 15,000 UK bookings up to the end of the summer.

Flights from Birmingham and Manchester were leaving on Tuesday, with another going out from Gatwick on Wednesday.

The company will continue to fly out three planes each week until April, when a flight from Glasgow will be added.

By May, there will be six flights each week, with Stansted and Newcastle added to the list of departure points.

Britain's ambassador to Tunis, Louise de Sousa, said when asked if Tunisia is safe enough now for British tourists to return: "No country can be 100% safe [from terrorism].

"But we are satisfied that Tunisia has made substantial progress and I would encourage Britons to come and visit. This country has so much to offer."

However, Alan Bowen, an adviser for the African Travel and Tourism Association, told the BBC he wouldn't visit the country.

"It's a very brave move starting these flights," he said. "Tunisia has improved security, but the country borders Libya, which is in a state of chaos.

"I wouldn't go because I don't think it's safe."

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