UK tourist advice will have repercussions – Tunisia PM

  • 11/07/2015
Tourists rush to leave Tunisia after warnings another terrorist attack was highly likely (Reuters)
Tourists rush to leave Tunisia after warnings another terrorist attack was highly likely (Reuters)

Tunisia's premier says he will telephone British counterpart David Cameron over his government's advice that the North African nation was unsafe for holidays.

Guidance issued on Thursday by the Foreign Office forced British tour operators to halt all holidays to Tunisia in a massive blow to a key sector of its economy.

At the same time, the estimated 3000 British tourists who were already in Tunisia had their holidays cut short, and some have already flown home.

Prime Minister Habib Essid told parliament late on Thursday (local time) that the guidance "has repercussions, repercussions for other countries".

"We will ring the British prime minister to tell him we have done everything we can to protect all British interests and those of others countries - that's our duty," Essid said.

"Britain is free to take whatever decision it likes; it's a sovereign country. But we too are a sovereign country, and we have a position to take."

Foreign Minister Taieb Baccouche said on Friday that Tunis did not blame London for its decision but would seek a reversal.

"Little by little, we will try to convince them, perhaps, to go back on it," he said.

In Paris, meanwhile, the foreign ministry said it would not urge French nationals to leave Tunisia, but was warning people to be "particularly vigilant."

Tunisia has brought in a raft of new security measures, including arming tourist police, since a jihadist gunman killed 38 foreign holidaymakers, 30 of them Britons, at the beach resort of Port El Kantaoui on June 26.

But the Foreign Office said it did not believe they provided "adequate protection" and advised against all but essential travel.

Within minutes of the Foreign Office advice, tour operators Thomson and First Choice said they had cancelled all flights to Tunisia until October 31.

Tour operator Thomas Cook said on Friday it had done the same and that it would be repatriating all of its holidaymakers from Tunisia over the weekend.

Last month's massacre followed one in March, when two jihadists gunned down 21 tourists at the Bardo National Museum in Tunis.

The two attacks, claimed by the Islamic State group, have dealt a heavy blow to the tourism industry, which contributes between seven and eight per cent of Tunisia's GDP.