The President of the French Tourist Operators Association (CETO) René-Marc Chikli gave an exclusive interview To AfricanManager in which he told us that the season will not be saved on the French market, explaining that French tourists, contrary to the Russians or the Germans, over-react to events.
René-Marc Chikli, said, moreover, that his customers now number just 450,000 while they were double in 2010. He added that the losses of French tour operators resulted at 50% from the Tunisian market.
What is your assessment of the Tunisian tourism market?
The Tunisian tourism market has been well delayed in 2012. The delay continued again early this year due to the over-reaction of French to the events. The French are very attached to Tunisia, but, on the other hand, they postpone their trip to that country.
We can consider that the French today tend to rethink their travel expenses. One French national out of two is not going to travel this year. To this is added a regional context which is not easy with an image that was a bit blurred at the beginning of the year. We hope that these customers, will make up their minds in the days or weeks to come, will do a little better, as it happened in 2011 and 2012, and to ensure that July will not too bad.
We can not say we will save the season. The season will not be saved on the French market, but we can limit the damage. That’s the goal with Tunisian partners and also with the government and the Ministry of Tourism.
Many Tunisians have explained the decline of French tourists by the situation in France; to what extent can we consider this true?
No, the decline of French tourists is due both to the situation in France and what is happening in Tunisia. In France, reservations are down 7%. The French travel less. And on the other side, the French, who are looking to travel, are customers who react to the events, which is not the case of Russian, English, or German.
We must develop tourist areas for the French tourist who has no problem to come to Tunisia; this is what it is expected by the French market. We need a strong and reassuring message. We want to see our customers come back very happy, excited and without any problems. There is a lot of work to do together on the French market in collaboration with the Ministries of Tourism in France and Tunisia.
Can we talk about losses on the Tunisia destination? If so? Can you quantify?
Yes, losses are very important in the Tunisian market (50%) and Egypt (50%). There are very little losses Morocco, but we never quantified the losses as best as we have done, but now it becomes very clear. In 2010, the French tour operators used to have 900,000 customers with 300,000 flights dry. Today, there are only 450 thousand customers.
How can Tunisia recover its French customers?
In terms of seduction, Tunisia is fine, but now we need the Franco-Tunisians. If you say, as Franco-Tunisian, come visit my country, this is the best commercial agent that can exist. We rely heavily on social networks and the Franco-Tunisians to like and support us in this endeavor.
And what about the political situation in Tunisia?
The political aspect is another thing. French tourists are not glued to the political aspect and that was quite clear, and when asked, they are very happy.
Do the French tour operators still have confidence in Tunisia or not?
The worst is that they will disengage over the years to return very late in Tunisia. This is not yet the case, but the country must not experience other events and we must ensure that tour operators will not continue to lose money. It is not possible!
Can we speak of cancellation of reservations on the Tunisia destination?
No, there is no cancellation. We had experienced that situation during the months of January and February.
Today, there is rather a timid recovery with people who are necessarily last minute and who are seeking the sun at a better price and Tunisia is best suited for the sun and the cost.
Are there any messages to pass on to Tunisian operators?
There are two categories. There are those who have not suffered and continue to produce. They must ensure that their product is of high level. And on the other hand, we must help those who are facing severe difficulties to remain on the market and prevent that a significant part, 50% of hoteliers be questioned. They need help to get back again, find forms of financing and cheaper credits.
Is communication on the French destination enough?
The campaign in France is very beautiful. Today, what we urgently need is to show the beach with quiet people. We must shift from an image campaign to a product one. We must show that we live well in Tunisia, we eat as before and there is no problem.