On Saturday 21st June, Just Sunshine Holidays Ireland’s first weekly summer charter series with Tunis Air takes off from Dublin to Monastir. Neil Steedman, News & Features Editor of Irish Travel Trade News, flew out via London Heathrow to meet four of Just Sunshine’s team in Tunisia.
Peter Chilton, Customer Service Manager, has lived in Tunisia for 24 years. Previously in the motor trade in England, he spent a career break of six months or more living in Ireland and playing golf in Kinsale and at Royal Tara. He then moved to Tunisia to work for Panorama Holidays / MyTravel, which operated a significant programme ex-Ireland to Tunisia, so he well understands the differences between Irish and British holidaymakers.
“Between the 30-35 flights a week being operated this summer by the nine tour operators within the Just Sunshine group, as well as being agents for Lowcostbeds (and also Hayes Travel and Travel Republic), I have responsibility here in Tunisia for around 100,000 visitors.
“I also manage our representatives, and have explained to them how much alike Irish and Tunisian people are, particularly in their openness and willingness to chat, and their curiosity and interest in discovering about other peoples and cultures.”
Stroma MacRae commenced working in Tunisia for Just Sunshine in April 2008. She moved back to the UK in January 2013 but the experience turned out to be “a nightmare”, so by March 2014 she (to use her own words) “came back home to Tunisia” and was delighted to also be able to return to the same company and live in the same apartment.
“My job title is Product Executive / Operations, but essentially I am a back-up for Peter and do everything, including contracts, airport controlling, transport, managing representatives – you name it! You have to be multi-skilled in this business,” she said, and echoed words spoken by Peter when adding: “If you work in tourism, you have to be fully committed to it.”
Peter and Stroma’s obvious passion for and commitment to the travel business is clearly shared by two young Tunisians who work with them, Faten Azaiez and Mehdi Messaoudi. Both are from Monastir, are college graduates from the same faculty of Languages, Arts and Human Sciences, and exemplify the high value placed on education – and the high levels achieved – by the young generation in Tunisia.
Faten, who has been Just Sunshine’s Operations Executive – Eastern Europe since 2006, speaks Arabic, French, English and “a little Spanish”. She handles reservations from the growing markets of Croatia, Poland and Slovenia, while a colleague looks after Hungary and Serbia (the latter being one of a few countries to which Tunisians can travel without a visa).
Mehdi is a Customer Service Representative, currently responsible for Just Sunshine’s guests in six or seven El Mouradi hotels, including the Palm Marina in Port El Kantaoui – Sousse, where we met, so many of Irish travel agents’ clients will be looked after by him. He joined Just Sunshine in 2009, having studied English, American History and British History, and speaks Arabic, French, English, Spanish, and “a little Russian and a little German”. He has worked as a rep in all 17 El Mouradi hotels throughout Tunisia at one time or another.
Peter Chilton explained: “It is important for all our reps to do that, so that they get first-hand experience of what each hotel offers and also the locale, nearby attractions, excursion possibilities, etc.”