Travel agencies

Tunisia: the endless purgatory of travel agencies

The world has now been in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic for almost two years, which has unfolded in wave after wave of hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of infections, all against a backdrop unprecedented economic and social devastation.

Employees have been made redundant and others have been put on short-time working or on short-time working, companies have closed with all the consequences that ensue.

All sectors have been affected, but tourism is, in fact, the most affected. In a statement to AfricanManager, Jabeur Ben Attouch, President of the Tunisian Federation of Travel Agencies (FTAV), again confirmed that the pandemic has seriously damaged tourist activity and especially air, sea and land transport due to the closure of borders and successive confinements.

“The impact has been disastrous with a total shutdown of tourist transport activities in 2020 and almost total in 2021,” he said.

Bankruptcies following the closure of Umrah

All players in the sector have been affected, especially travel agencies knowing that they do not have a single activity but several such as air and maritime transport, land transport, outbound (movement of Tunisians abroad) , incoming (reception of tourists), travel ‘Umrah’, tours and excursions and medical tourism…etc.

Air transport was affected by 90% and 70% in 2020 and 2021 respectively, compared to the reference year 2019, according to the FTAV.

Above all, travel under Umrah has come to a complete halt since the start of the pandemic until today, generating many harmful consequences.

“23 travel agencies are threatened with bankruptcy following the cancellation of trips to the Holy Places knowing that they are groups of travel agencies…”, indicates Ben Attouch.

In terms of figures, the amount of losses following the cancellation of Umrah trips amounts to 3 million 47 thousand dinars for 3,180 potential Umrah travelers or pilgrims, knowing that the Umrah charter plane ticket turns around 1,300 dinars per person.

Solutions via FODECT

Solutions must be found to help travel agencies honor their debts. Only the Competitiveness Development Fund (FODECT) can compensate for these losses, because neither travelers nor airlines have the capacity or the means to deal with them.

In fact, the money has already been spent without any compensation, the plane fee has been accounted for, while the travel agency has paid the airline and the pilgrim has not benefited from his ‘Umrah’, says the president of the federation.

“Neither the traveler nor the travel agency had requested the cancellation of these flights, so it is unfair that they assume a fault that is not theirs!

“The problem has persisted since March 8, 2020. Since that date, we have continued to meet with all the stakeholders, namely the Ministry of Transport, and those of Tourism, and Foreign Affairs to consider these flights as evacuation flights,” he said. .

Finally, the FTAV presented this problem to the FODECT for the compensation of these losses suffered by the travel agencies so that they can in turn reimburse the pilgrims of the Umrah charter flights which have been canceled.

“I remember a certain February 26, 2020, when the travelers were in the boarding lounge and the plane was at Djerba airport, we suddenly received a decision from Saudi Arabia at midnight. Arabia decreeing the cessation of all flights.

So the pilgrims turned back and the plane flew empty to bring back the other travelers who were in Saudi Arabia,” said the president of the FTAV.

“So far, we hope to find a solution via FODECT. Moreover, we have just sent a request to the Ministry of Tourism to expose this problem to FODECT, knowing that this fund is not financed by the State but comes from professionals in the tourism sector such as owners of restaurants and cafes,” says Ben Attouch.

The fund has not contributed to development for two years now, since all activities have been stopped, he said.

In addition, the FTAV has carried out a study and put together a file, since March 2020, for the Ministry of Transport as well as for the Ministry of Tourism.

FODECT’s request for intervention has been filed for several months and still has not been followed up.

“It’s a case of force majeure, we are in exceptional circumstances, so we must take exceptional measures!” he said in conclusion.