EasyJet to return to Tunisia for the first time since 2015 terror attack

Hugh Morris
Tunisia, which is still in a state of emergency, is enjoying a revival in its tourism fortunes - getty

EasyJet will fly to Tunisia next year for the first time since the Sousse terror attack in 2015 that left 38 people dead. 

The low-cost airline pulled out of the north African country, following Foreign Office advice, in the wake of the Islamic State attack at the popular tourist destination. The restrictions were lifted in 2017 but EasyJet only this week revealed its return.

The carrier will fly twice a week from Gatwick to Enfidha in the Gulf of Hammamet, an hour’s drive from Sousse, from May 2. 

The news came in an announcement of 25 new routes for next summer, with 12 from the UK, including the airline’s first service to Tirana, Albania.

“We expect our new destinations to be especially popular amongst customers, offering something different from typical bucket-and-spade holidays,” said Ali Gayward, the airline’s UK manager.

The amphitheatre at El Jem Credit: getty

“We are continuing to deliver a network of destinations which provide our customers with flexibility and choice, underlining our commitment to providing the destinations our customers want.”  

In the wake of the Sousse attack at the resort of Port El Kantaoui, at which gunmen said to be linked with the so-called Islamic State arrived by boat, Tunisian security forces were criticised for their planning and response. 

It was in 2017, after two years of travel restrictions, that the Foreign Office felt comfortable changing its guidance on visiting Tunisia.

At the time, a spokesperson said: “Since the terrorist attack in Sousse in June 2015, which targeted tourists, the UK government has been working closely with the Tunisian authorities to investigate the attack and the wider threat from terrorist groups. The Tunisian government has improved protective security in major cities and tourist resorts.”

Since then visitors have begun to return to the country. The latest figures from the Tunisian Ministry of Tourism showed that 592,000 tourists arrived in the first quarter of 2019, up 17 per cent compared to the same period last year. European arrivals were up 22.3 per cent. 

Tunisia saw its arrivals fall from 7.2 million in 2014 to just 5.4 million in 2015, raising fears the nation’s holiday industry would collapse leaving thousands out of work. In 2018, it soared to 8.3 million.

Thomas Cook earlier this year increased its focus on the country, with British holidaymakers drawn to the promise of guaranteed sun and good value. The collapse of the tour operator was another dent in the nation’s tourism hopes.

Now, however, there is a sense of optimism. 

Telegraph Travel’s Chris Leadbeater visited last November and found a country primed for visitors, especially when it comes to visiting the majestic amphitheatre of El Djem.

   

“To cross its threshold is to tumble into the third century – into the din of gladiatorial sword-clash and the roar of lions in holding pens,” he wrote. “Three tiers of seats rise, and you can still go up, upon stairs that have sustained a million footsteps, to the top level, and peer down in awe. Again, I do this with little company – there are maybe 20 other visitors on a warm morning. 

“I cast my mind back to my last trip to Rome, to the queues at the Colosseum – to the postcard touts and the thrust of selfie-sticks – and whisper to myself the sacrilege that, for breathless glimpses of the stadiums of ancient times, El Djem might well be the superior location.”

The Foreign Office (FCO) still warns against travel to parts of Tunisia, including the southern region that borders Libya. A state of emergency imposed after a suicide attack on a bus in November 2015 still remains in place having been extended a number of times, most recently in August up to the end of December.

Terrorists are “still very likely to try to carry out attacks in Tunisia,” the FCO says

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