Resuming regular direct contacts with Portugal is the main objective of Tunisian tourism for 2023. Internationally invited to leave Lisbon for tourism, the country wants to expand its destination image and go beyond the beaches.
Both countries are only connected by charter flights organized by tour operators since Tunisair restructured its flights to Portugal in 2019.
Tunisair is currently renewing its fleet and focusing on more cohesive and profitable markets. Now, the air link is protected by a “non-limitation” clause that restricts one airline per country on the Portugal-Tunisia route.
Removing this clause is the battle that Leila Tekkaia, Tunisia’s director of tourism for the Iberian Peninsula, will fight in the coming months. With the aim of returning to regular direct flights from October and making Tunisia an annual destination for the Portuguese, who currently only travel to the Mediterranean country between Easter and the end of summer.
Negotiations are at an advanced stage, adds the official, who is betting on the Tunisian private company Nouvelair, which belongs to a vertical tourism group with a large presence in Tunisia.
One of the reasons that helped make this wish come true is the fact that there are more and more Tunisian students in Portugal, which makes the authorities in both countries welcome the end of individual nominations.
Being at BTL specifically aims to promote Tunisia beyond the summer and beach destination. Laila Taqaya admits it’s a challenge. “90% of visitors ask about Djerba.”
The idea is to draw attention to alternative future solutions, including from the point of view of tour operators. More than 90% of the 28,000 Portuguese who entered Tunisia in 2022 were through operators.
The bet on Portugal is even justified by the pace of recovery after the pandemic: the market represented 96% of 2019 values, well above the European average of 72%.
And while Djerba is a beach, it’s also a winter gateway to exploring the south, oasis desert circuits, and Berber and Bedouin cultures.
What about Tunisia anyway? “It is the epitome of all the civilizations that passed through the Mediterranean, because Tunisia is the center. From the Phoenicians, Romans, Greeks, Byzantines, Visigoths and Ottomans to the slaves of Africa. It is a multicultural destination, with history, antiquities, Carthaginian, Roman , Muslim, French, Italian, Maltese and ancient Spanish… And it has arts, culture and archeology that cover a page of human history.”