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Tunisia: Who’s afraid of low cost?

The low cost in air transport was the key topic of the roundtable held Tuesday by “Tourism Info” on “Tourism and air transport” whose guest was  Tourism Minister,  Khélil Lajimi.
Two stands were at odds; the first one, advocated by Transport Director General and to a lesser extent by Tunis Air CEO, calls for restricting or even banning the adoption of this model by Tunisia, whereas all other participants including the Tourism minister himself and representatives of travel agencies and hotel business spoke up for its extension to the country.
Arguing, which happened to turn sometimes into polemic, gave to both sides the opportunity to say what they think of low cost and its impact on air transport activity as well on tourism.
Transport Director General referred to the fact that domestic demand doesn’t exceed 15% , asserting that low cost cannot brings nothing new to Tunisian air transport nor to touristic activity adding that the government is first and foremost mindful of the consumer protection.

Moreover, he cautioned against excessive liberalization, recalling the example of Europe took too much time to adapt to new developments in air transport, including low cost.
He has nevertheless underlined that Tunisia is entitled with a long experience with respect to the open sky, so that, since 1990, it opened its sky to national private operators, such Karthago that Nouvelair  which were the core of the Tunisian flag in this field.

However, the issue is to know why Tunisians can not benefit of low cost within the national territory, especially since prices are continually climbing due to soaring fuel prices but also because the companies’ operating costs  entered into a spiral leading to an increase of over 40%. So, for example, a Tunisian must pay not less than 2,000 dinars for a brief stay in Paris, including other costs.

In their plea for the adoption of low cost, Tunisian tour operators and hoteliers argued that adopting this model by Tunisia is inevitable in light of developments of air transport in the world, asserting that it is increasingly unnecessary to extend this deadline. The country has everything to gain, they said.
To do so, they advocate overhauling laws governing air travel, including airfare that is a service regulated under the 1985 Decree still in force, which introduced since the approval rate. Much work is to be done as far as regulations are concerned, said in this respect a tour operator.

It is not necessary to conceal the surface of the low cost, said the Tourism minister who added that “we must not be afraid of this model. We should be prepared  to cope with this prospect as did  the  Tunisian Industry whose liberalization raised, a dozen years ago, among Tunisian industrials, serious concern and  fears that , finally  have proved unfounded, since the annual rise in the Tunisian industrial activity records, a 20% increase  per year”.

The minister, moreover, argued that the Tunisian consumer will take advantage of low cost, recommending to start applying the model on routes with high traffic density such as Paris-Tunis and urging companies operating this line, namely, Tunis Air and Air France to take the initiative to do so, pending the arrival of other operators. Incidentally, he encouraged the Transport ministry to be involved in such approach so that operators wishing to launch low cost formulas will face no more  “legal hindrance” preventing them from providing  low-cost services.

Business class and commission zero 

wo other issues were raised by tour operators: the commission zero and the lack of business class on routes served by Tunis Air.

On the first point, it was announced that a text establishing the  commission  zero has been prepared by the national company and will enter into force before the end of the year after its approval by the ministry.

Finally and regarding the  lack of business class on board of  Tunis Air planes, the national company CEO assured that this issue will be resolved as soon as next summer thanks to the development of modular cabins.


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