Following the visit on February 22 of Christine Lagarde, French Minister of Economy, Finance and Industry and Laurent Wauquiez, Minister to the Minister of State, Minister of Foreign and European, Frederic Lefebvre, French Secretary of State in charge of Trade, Crafts and SMEs visited Tunisia on March 2, together with Presidents of professional organizations, tour operators and travel agencies. He met with Mehdi Haouas, Minister of Trade and Tourism to confirm the support of France and help Tunisia quickly recover its level of tourism business as summer season is approaching.
The French Secretary of State has kindly accepted to give us the interview that follows: What shall we expect from your visit to Tunisia of the Post-January 14?
I had visited Tunisia for the first time when I was a teenager. I love this country, and I have really admired the Tunisian Revolution, which makes of Tunisia a pioneer nation in what is happening now in other countries.
This visit is part of the strategy of promoting French-Tunisian tourism. Because it is essential to improve the craft, trade and tourism areas; it is very important to work together, we will seek to revive the sector damaged since January 14, 2011. We will improve the overall hotel services.
France confirms its commitment to help Tunisia in its endeavor to reassure French tourists to encourage them to return to Tunisia.
The French authorities also want to help Tunisia in its approach to economic recovery, especially that the tourism situation in Tunisia is similar to that of France, insofar as France attracts thousands of tourists while in terms of turnover, it is supplanted by Spain, just like Tunisia.
We want to work together to enhance the heritage and develop the image of tourists who only come to stay at the hotel and for beaches and the sun.
What are the measures taken to save the spring and summer seasons? Since the lifting of travel restrictions, tour operators have more than ever relied on low prices to avoid economic disaster. Tourism concerns so many jobs that it would be a disaster in terms of growth if there is a sudden drop in weeks and months ahead.
We must revive the sector. Last year, 1.4 million French tourists spent their holidays in Tunisia, i.e. 20% of the total number of tourists.
All we can do is support tourism Tunisia. I had the opportunity to speak with Mehdi Haouas, Minister of Trade and Tourism to find more efficient solutions that will enhance and strengthen the season, especially as the months of January and February saw a remarkable drop.
I already invited the Tunisian minister to travel to Paris to step up exchanges and cooperation between the two countries on issues of learning and good practices in developing crafts and promotion of know-how of craftsmen.
I also discussed with French tourism stakeholders how to support Tunisia, and this through ambitious programs in order to develop a tourism campaign.
Have you visited some tourist areas in Tunisia to examine the situation on the ground?
I have visited a vocational training center of hotel trades, catering and tourism; it is a concrete example of the cooperation that Tunisia and France have already implemented in
vocational training and tourism.
I remind you that I came to Tunisia with several tourism top officials to know about the true image of this country and improve services in order to find effective solutions to restart the spring season.
It is essential to improve hotel services to attract French tourists, especially since more than one million French people admired the revolution of this people who have shown their strength and their dignity and to achieve their freedom and democracy.
We have expressed our commitment to ensuring all means likely to enable the recovery of the Tunisian tourism sector, especially as the country is the first destination for French tourists outside Europe.