The collapse of Thomas Cook presents a “big opportunity” for Tui in Tunisia, the country’s tourism minister has said.
René Trabelsi said Thomas Cook accounted for 50% of all UK visitors to Tunisia but said Tui had already added increased flight capacity to the destination.
Last year, Tui re-introduced a small programme to Hammamet three years after a terrorist attack in Sousse killed 30 British customers.
Tunisia is on track to meet its target of 200,000 UK visitors this year, having already recorded 195,000.
Speaking to Travel Weekly at this year’s WTM, Trabelsi said: “It’s a good opportunity for Tui to position itself with bigger capacities.
“Tui has added five flights since Thomas Cook collapsed, but there are other tour operators in the pipeline so there’s a big opportunity for everyone.”
He revealed Tunisian hotels impacted by Thomas Cook’s collapse were seeking to postpone loan payments to banks and claim tax back.
Trabelsi said hoteliers had invested heavily in upgrading properties over the years and were struggling to pay off debts after being left out pocket from Thomas Cook.
Around 40 hotels were owed money by the travel giant when it failed in September. Trabelsi said three large hotel chains were “severely impacted” while others were affected to a smaller extent.
Commenting on Thomas Cook, Trabelsi said: “It was a big surprise for us. Everyone thought that the British government would help avoid a collapse so we expected it to be rescued.”
He added: “The UK is a very important market for Tunisia. UK guests demand high quality service and product so it’s good to have this standard of client because it helps push ours up.”
He said that Tunisia is also developing a sustainable tourism project for the future.