On 26 July, the British Government’s Foreign Office (FCO) amended the travel status of Tunisia from ‘essential travel only’ to ‘safe for tourists to visit’. The FCO had previously advised against tourists visiting Tunisia in the wake of a terrorist attack at the Sousse resort, Tunisia, in 2015 that resulted in 37 deaths, including the lives of 30 British citizens.
“The government has changed its travel advice for Tunisia. It no longer advises against travel to most of the country, including Tunis and the major tourist destinations,” said Alistair Burt MP. “This update reflects our latest assessment that the risk to British nationals in Tunisia has changed. This is in part due to the security improvements that the Tunisian authorities and tourist industry have made, with support from the UK and international partners.”
Unfortunately for the Tunisian superyacht market, the travel ban, imposed by the British government, followed what had been the markets most prosperous year in 2014. According to Kim Williams, co-founder of Yacht Services Tunisia, 2014 had been a landmark year for Tunisia that had seen numerous superyachts visiting the region and remaining for economically significant periods of time – only to be derailed by terrorist atrocity.
“Leading up to the events of 2015, we had had our best year ever. Building the business had taken 10 years and it was going from strength to strength,” says Williams. “The marinas were busy and yachts were coming to stay, not just to benefit from the duty-free fuel. Tunisia was becoming far more of a superyachting community, as opposed to stop gap, because the captains and owners knew that there would be a number of other superyachts here at any one time.”
The travel restriction, initiated by the UK government, was quickly adopted by numerous other nations which, in turn, advised their citizens against travelling to Tunisia, unless to do so was an absolute necessity. Naturally, the imposition of the ban had a catastrophic effect on Tunisian tourism in general, as well as hitting the extremely safety conscious superyacht market hard.
While the ban had previously been lifted by a number of nations, the superyacht market’s close working relationship with the British legal and insurance industries has meant that the UK’s stance on the travel ban has, for the most part, remained the rule for yachting market, with insurers refusing coverage for vessels wishing to travel to Tunisia.
“The lifting of the travel ban took us all by surprise,” continues Williams. “There had previously been rumours, the first of which came in October, but it was nigh on impossible to ascertain the truth of them. We had heard, three days before the lifting of the ban that I may happen, but again we couldn’t be certain. We couldn’t be gladder that Tunisia’s status has changed.”
Williams reports that since the ban, Yacht Services Tunisia has already had a superyacht client visit for a number of days, with three or four more superyachts scheduled to arrive within the week. Williams hopes that, as is often the way in yachting, word of mouth praise will see a return to the pre-2015 halcyon days of Tunisian superyachting.
“We are very happy to invite the superyacht community back to Tunisia. The safety of our clients is of the upmost importance to the team and I, and although we have not experienced any issues in the areas of Tunisia where we are based, it is wonderful to have the reassurance for our clients from the British government,” concludes Williams.
See slider for a map of Tunisian safe zones.