Preparing for the return of the Brits

By | Category: Travel news
Looking from the roof garden in the new Concorde green Park Palace Hotel towards the newly protected beach access

Looking from the roof garden in the new Concorde green Park Palace Hotel towards the newly protected beach access

Tunisian hotels have been hit hard by the lack of British tourists. Numbers are down by 91% for the first quarter of 2016 compared to 2015.

In Sousse alone there are 80,000 bedrooms available for guests and the British were the largest visitors. Although other nations like France and Germany have lifted any flight advice about not travelling to Tunisia, the UK has not.

Safety and security loom large in people’s minds according to the latest Holiday Confidence Index for Spring 2016 from First Rate Exchange Services. 46% of the 5,155 Brits polled said they have not made changes to their holiday destination because of terrorist acts suggesting that the majority may have done. Those doubts need to be dealt with by Tunisia and the results passed back to potential tourists.

So how is Tunisia rising to the challenge of satisfying the British government  – and us – that it is safe to travel? I have been in Sousse these past few days at the invitation of the Tunisian Tourist Board and – unconnected with the main reason for my visit – I decided to find out.

the "huts" where security wil patrol those wanting to leave or enter the hotel

the “huts” where security will patrol those wanting to leave or enter the hotel

When I landed at Tunis, you could see more armed policemen at the airport. Before entering the airport building, bags and suitcases had to go through a screening machine and there was a machine at each entrance. At different hotels I have been to in Sousse, there was a barrier to the hotels at which I stayed and a security man checked under the car I was in with one of those mirrors on a stick so he could see the underside of the car. All hotels have been ordered to operate such procedures.

I talked to a hotel management company, Concorde who operate two hotels, one in Hammamet and one in Port El Kantaoui near Sousse about how they were adapting to the heightened safety demands. They are just two weeks away from opening the newly refurbished five star Green Park Palace in Port El Kantaoui. This 452 room hotel is designed as an upmarket hotel which would appeal to singles, couples and those with older children rather than toddlers despite the fact that there is a children’s pool and play area in the resort. Like many hotels in the area, it is an all-inclusive one with even drinks be they alcoholic or soft being included in the prices as are the shows, ballet, Tunisian themed nights and other entertainment provided in the 300 seat plus theatre which backs onto the outside pool area.

The hotel backs on to the beach but, as part of the new security measures, there is only one entrance to the hotel from it. Security men installed in “huts” either side of the gate will only let people through who sport a wristband. On the beach, security men patrol it on quod bikes.

other countries are vusiting Tunisia as you can see from these tour operator posters. Spot the blue of Tui...

other countries are vusiting Tunisia as you can see from these tour operator posters. Spot the blue of Tui…

The whole resort is surrounded by railings and although you can see them, they don’t intrude on the guest’s holiday. Nor do the CCTV cameras that are installed wherever there is a corner on a building and at other locations too.  Inside, a room has been set aside so that the cameras are monitored 24 hours a day. Concorde has hired a security firm to look after the safety of the building and they work with the company’s own security staff. Altogether there will be 25 security staff on site.

At one side of the hotel it abuts the El Kantaoui Golf Club where the Tunisian Open is being played at the moment. There is a gate through to the course that guests will be able to use and, yes, there is security at the gate. Golfers will be able to play either of the two courses in the club and then return to the hotel via that gate, stopping off at the adjacent complex’s conference centre where they can leave their clubs, bag and shoes for the next time.

... and here are notes for cutomers of Airtours , just not for any British ones

… and here are notes for cutomers of Airtours , just not for any British ones

If I wanted to visit a guest at the hotel, I couldn’t just walk up and say that I had come to see someone. I would have had to have arranged it in advance with the hotel or get the guest to meet me outside the patrolled gates.

The Green Park Palace couldn’t seem to do much more although there are other security measures in place that I was not told about for obvious reasons.

In the streets of Sousse you see more armed police patrolling. They are at roundabouts and other pinch spots such as entrances to hotel and resort complexes, attractions and the El Kantaoui Golf Club. I was escorted in my car to the golf club by a police vehicle because such a high profile event as the Tunisian Open warrants extra vigilence. Tunisia can’t afford another tragic incident.

What more can Tunisia or a hotel do to satisfy the British Government. The tourist board in Tunisia doesn’t know, nor do they know when the ban might be lifted. When that happens, Tui, (including First Choice) Thomas Cook and the other British tour operators will be sending us to the country again. They already are but not their British customers. In one typical package holiday hotel I visited, a room off the reception area held more than a dozen postings from tour operators which include Tui and Airtours – a division of Thomas Cook.

.It was just that they were sending customers there from other European countries instead of us.

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