"We cannot save the whole season but we will try everything to save part of it": the Tunisian Minister of Tourism welcomed tourists this weekend on a first charter flight after a three-month stop due to the new coronavirus.
Arrived on the island of Djerba aboard a flight chartered by the Luxembourg tour operator Luxair, the 155 French, German and Luxembourg tourists were expected when they got off the plane by a hostess wishing them a good stay with bouquets of jasmine .
Tunisia has successfully taken drastic measures to contain the pandemic, which has killed 50 among 1,374 people infected in the country.
The mandatory 14-day quarantine was lifted in mid-June, and the borders reopened on June 27. Travelers from France, Germany and Luxembourg are not subject to any restrictions, like all countries classified as green by the Tunisian authorities. When they got off the plane, the travelers wore sanitary masks and were subjected to a temperature measurement by thermal camera at the airport.
"You have managed the health crisis better than us," says Patrick, a Frenchman in his sixties who arrived with his son for a ten-day stay in the sun.
He says he chose Tunisia after following the evolution of the health situation in the country on television.
Djerba, "the island of dreams", is one of the main tourist destinations in Tunisia. It mainly attracts French, German and British tourists
- "Pay attention" -
The most important "is that the people who work in tourism regain confidence and believe in it again", estimates the Tunisian Minister of Tourism, Mohamed Ali Toumi. And "I think it's won with the arrival of this plane and others soon," he said.
The authorities are counting on maintaining strict sanitary measures to reassure tourists and the sector.
"Sanitary measures begin as soon as you enter the hotel" and with "respect for distancing procedures", explains Atef Denguir, manager of a hotel in Djerba.
When they arrive at the hotel, tourists wash their hands with hydroalcoholic gel and are subjected to a new temperature measurement, while the establishment staff spray disinfectant on the luggage.
"We made up our mind 8 days ago (...) The decision was quickly made" because we know Tunisia, explains Emmanuel Lambert, a French tourist who came with his family.
By reopening its borders, Tunisia has decided to halve the reception capacity of its hotels to comply with anti-coronavirus instructions.
"We are determined to strictly apply the health protocol," assured AFP the Minister of Tourism, who spoke with travelers.