Market Development: Tunisia’s Ambitious Plans

Alina Khorosheva, 02.04.2014 11:53
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Before the Moscow spring week of travel business professionals, a new General Director of Tunisia’s National Tourism Office was appointed – Khaled Trabelsi, who then visited MITT-2014. TRN magazine presents an exclusive interview with the new head of the office, where he shed some light on the plans for developing the destination on the Russian market, the inner workings of the country’s tourism and the nuances of promoting Tunisia.

- Mr. Trabelsi, what will be the main focus as regards developing tourism in Tunisia during the coming years?

- Tunisia’s tourism ministry and tourism office are constantly at work creating new tourism products in line with the general development framework, which allows for developing the industry in a few directions.

For instance, this year we are going to engage in active promotion of ecological tourism in Tunisia among Russians. Our market research shows that there is pretty robust demand for this kind of tourism. We have prepared nearly 70 thousand hectares of land for the respective investments, and we have devised a business plan that outlines our main goals and objectives. We will be announcing an international tender for this project shortly. The tourist cluster is slated to be built right on the seashore in southern Tunisia.

We have also prepared a development project for the forest tourism, sometimes also called ‘green tourism’, which we plan on carrying out in a little place called Tabarka.

The third project will also be realized in an existing tourist zone in the Sahara Desert. Hotels, golf fields and the necessary infrastructure have already been created there. The only thing that has not been built yet is the entertainment center, which is exactly what the project is created for.

Currently we are also concentrating on refining the already existing product, which is the foundation of the travel business – the hotel service. We have held negotiations with the local hoteliers on the subject of improving the quality of service at Tunisian hotels.

- How many rooms are there in the country’s hotels as of today? What will be the growth rate of this number during the coming years?

- As of right now, Tunisia can offer tourists 240 thousand rooms. This number increases by 3,000 rooms each year thanks to new hotels being built and the territory of the existing ones being expanded.

- How does Russia rank among the markets important for Tunisia, and by which means will your country reach the mark of 500 thousand Russian tourists?

- Russia holds the 4th spot among the European travel markets that are important for the republic. As you know, about 300 thousand Russians visited Tunisia last year, which is 50 thousand more than in 2012. This is a significant increase. However, the figure that you have mentioned is attainable only over the course of a few years. We do not want to make any leaps, and we are going to gradually move towards that goal. But this goal is not restricted to figures alone – as soon as we understand the idiosyncrasies of the multi-faceted Russian market, as well as the mentality and the character of Russians, we will find the funds and opportunities for increasing the tourist flow.

- Is the current passenger flow adequate, or does it need to be increased?

- Developing air carriage and tourism go hand in hand. This year we will maintain last year’s volumes – the respective memorandum with the Russian civil aviation was signed on February 26.

- Tour operators say that carriage between Russia and Tunisia is currently quite expensive. What are your comments?

- I believe that the service quality matches the price. True, the ticket ‘devours’ quite a large portion of the overall price – 60-70%, but the holiday package itself is quite inexpensive.

- What is the image of an average Russian tourist in Tunisia?

- The majority of Russian tourists are middle class. They mainly choose good 4-5* hotels. We have not created a product for richer people, and that may be our mistake.

- How much money is the government investing in developing the tourism industry?

- I cannot name precise figures, but I will say that quite a lot of budgetary funds are spent on promoting the new tourist image of Tunisia.

- Do you already have a slogan?

- We do – ‘The place to be...Now!’. It has to do with the broad outlook on the world, when a person savors everything that goes on around him or her, enjoying freedom each and every moment.

- Speaking of freedom… Happy Tunisian Independence Day! Also, as you know, we have recently lived through a historic event – Crimea joining Russia. Do you by any chance view the peninsula as Tunisia’s competitor?

- I do not think that there will be a ‘shift’ in tourist flow from Tunisia to Crimea – these destinations are far too different.

- How active do you think are Tunisian tour operators on the European and Russian markets?

- They are active, but not as active as we expected. We assumed that they will come forward with their own plans for developing the destination and with a new approach to promoting it, but more often than not tour operators are only focused on getting budgetary help for their business.


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