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“When the English people didn’t come,


From left: TTG’s Sophie Griffi ths; Thomas Cook’s Sarah Anderson; Khaled Tlili, general manager of Les Orangers; and Lyndsey Greatbatch, Thomas Cook destination manager


Restaurant manager Haumouda Atrous Shop worker Ali Bensrim


the time of the attack, have been given fi rearms training, while MI6 is understood to have been helping the country in its intelligence gathering. Counter-terrorism experts from


London’s Metropolitan Police have been training resort staff in tourism hotspots, off ering guidance in how to spot suspicious activity, while security at airports in Tunis, Djerba, Monastir and Enfi dha has been overhauled by British aviation security experts. On the beaches, armed police on horseback and quad bikes patrol the shoreline. And in the hotels, security cameras have been fi tted and are now monitored 24/7; security guards patrol entrances; and vehicles as well as their occupants are checked on approach. Carol MacKenzie, Thomas Cook’s


group head of crisis management and customer welfare, who travelled to the country in August prior to the operator announcing its programme, says safety and security ranked just as highly as quality when it came to choosing the eight hotels that feature in Cook’s initial programme. “We visited the hotels we wanted


to operate from, checking the safety, the quality and what the atmosphere was like as we wanted to make sure our customers would feel comfortable,” she explains. “We went down to the beaches and I spoke with holidaymakers from France, Germany and Belgium – they were all


Police are patrolling the beaches on quad bikes


Tunisia timeline


MARCH 2015: Bardo museum terror attack in Tunis by Isis gunmen leaves 21 people dead, mostly European tourists JUNE 2015: Mass shooting in Port El Kantaoui, Sousse, kills 38 people, 30 of whom were British Tui customers. Isis claims responsibility JULY 2015: The UK FCO bans all but essential travel to Tunisia JULY 2017: FCO lifts travel ban to most of Tunisia including Sousse AUGUST 2017: Thomas Cook puts its Tunisia programme back on sale JANUARY 2018: Tui relaunches its Tunisia programme FEBRUARY 2018: Thomas Cook fl ights return to the country


very relaxed. It felt like a very safe, comfortable environment.”


Security measures Cook uses an independent auditing company called Cristal to check its hotels, and following the Sousse attack it added new security checklists to its audits. In the Sentido Phenicia, sales manager Ghazi Riahi reveals the hotel boosted its security cameras from 25 to 47, and there are plans to add a further


TTG editor Sophie Griffi ths explores Hammamet Medina


15. “Before they were only trained on the hotel entrances and the pool, now they are watching everywhere,” he says. “Someone is checking them 24/7. We’ve also strengthened the training of the guards as part of a programme run by the Interior Ministry.” Riahi says the hotel’s front and beach


entrances are additionally patrolled by guards with sniff er dogs, who are trained to smell explosives. “We’ve also trained all the staff so that they know how to deal with a critical situation and to identify suspicious activity,” he adds. “If someone is not a guest at the hotel, then they have to be identifi ed – they can’t get through the hotel without being checked,” he insists. A short walk from the Phenicia lies


Les Orangers Beach Resort, another property in Cook’s programme. We approach its gated front entrance, where a security guard inspects our car with a mirror device, checking for explosives. He raps on the boot and opens it to examine its contents before letting us through. Inside the hotel it seems guests


have received just as warm a welcome as at the Phenicia. Customers in its beachside restaurant seem bemused but delighted at the attention. Most admit they were lured by the cheaper prices and are unfazed by security concerns. “I’ve been before and loved it, I couldn’t wait to come back,” says Janis Green from Manchester. “I wasn’t


nervous about returning – why should I be scared here when there are terror attacks all the time in England?” Niki Hobson and Rob Cotterell from Derbyshire admit security “didn’t even cross our minds when we booked it”. “These things can happen anywhere – we feel safe so far, and we’ve seen guards patrolling the beaches. It’s not too much though – it’s the kind of thing you would expect anywhere.” As if to prove their point, two armed police on horseback trot past us as we chat, before carrying on along the sand. It’s an unusually grey day and the sunbeds are empty, but the police presence on the beach despite the lack of tourists, is reassuring. Later, the regional governor, Saloua Khiari visits Les Orangers to welcome guests. “Safety and security is our fi rst priority in Tunisia,” she insists. “You can see that from all the work we’ve done.” Lyndsey Greatbatch agrees: “From that devastating day to where we are now – the improvements in Tunisian security are incredible,” she says. That afternoon we wander into Hammamet’s Medina, which even for a rainy February day is unusually quiet. Shopkeepers say they have been kept busy by tourists from other countries – France, Germany and more recently Russia – but all reply with big smiles when I ask if they’re happy the Brits are now returning. “When the English people didn’t come, it felt like something was missing,” says restaurant manager Haumouda Atrous. “It’s been a long three years,” admits shop owner Imed Jamadi. But it is shop worker Ali Bensrim who perhaps best sums up the strength of feeling: “Our hearts are very big,” he says solemnly. “We hurt when we lost the tourists. Are we happy they’re returning? Oh yeah!” he grins.


it felt like something was missing” RESTAURANT MANAGER HAUMOUDA ATROUS


Watch the interview with Thomas Cook’s destination manager Lyndsey Greatbatch at: ttgmedia.com/tv


22.02.2018 13


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