Holiday companies pull out of Tunisia

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The Tunis museum shooting has struck a severe blow to tourism in Tunisia at a time when bookings among British holidaymakers were escalating.

Holiday companies Thomson and First Choice have cancelled excursions to Tunis for the coming days, while cruise companies could well decide against stopping at the North African country.

UK tour organisation Abta said that bookings to Tunisia for this summer had been looking healthy but that holiday companies would now be closely following Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice on visits to Tunisia. WORDS: PA.

So far, that advice has not changed since yesterday when the FCO said that in the light of the museum attack Britons "should be especially vigilant at this time and follow the advice of Tunisian security authorities and your tour operator".

Britons made nearly 425,000 visits to Tunisia last year, with the country proving popular again following a dip in the numbers earlier this decade.

There are around 6,500 Britons in Tunisia at present, although nearly all of them are at coastal resorts and not in Tunis.

Despite the scrapping, for the time being, of Tunis excursions, Thomson and First Choice said their clients, who are at beach resorts, were "enjoying their holidays as normal", adding that "Tunisia remains a popular destination for us".

Abta spokesman Sean Tipton told Sky News: "Tourist numbers to Tunisia have picked up over the last two years and we have had very healthy bookings for this summer.

"The season really picks up around mid-April to May. We now have a developing situation. Abta and holiday companies follow FCO advice very closely and safety is always the main concern."

The Tunis outrage - a deliberate attack on tourists - has tragic echoes of the November 1997 Luxor massacre in Egypt when gunmen killed 58 foreign holidaymakers including six Britons.

Tour operators pulled out of the Egyptian market and it was some time before holidays started again.

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