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Cablegate: Tunisia: Minister of Tourism Sets a Date for Open

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTU #0103 0401608
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 091608Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY TUNIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7282
INFO RUCNMGH/MAGHREB COLLECTIVE
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC

UNCLAS TUNIS 000103

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

FOR EEB/TRA/AN AND NEA/MAG
USDOC FOR ITA/MAC/ONE (MASON)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EIND EAIR PREL TS
SUBJECT: TUNISIA: MINISTER OF TOURISM SETS A DATE FOR OPEN
SKIES

REF: A. TUNIS 40
B. 09 TUNIS 829
C. 09 TUNIS 827
D. 09 TUNIS 696

Sensitive but unclassified. Please protect accordingly.

-------
Summary
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1. (SBU) In a February 4 courtesy call, the Ambassador
discussed Tunisia's tourism sector with Minister of Tourism
Slim Tlatli. Tlatli reported that the Government of Tunisia
(GOT) intends to sign an Open Skies agreement with the United
States by November 2011. The Ambassador and the Minister
also discussed other ways of increasing U.S.-Tunisia links,
including the "Memphis in May" festival and the U.S.-Tunisia
match-up at the September World Championship games of the
International Basketball Federation. End summary.

-----------------------------------
Plans to Develop the Tourism Sector
-----------------------------------

2. (SBU) Tlatli opened the meeting with an overview of the
tourism sector, which represents six percent of GDP and
directly employs over 4,000 Tunisians, and outlined the
ministry's plans to expand the sector with desert tours, golf
courses, thalasso (salt water) therapy, cultural tours, and
eco-tourism. His ministry is pursuing a strategy to
diversify the tourism sector and increase its profitability
by expanding into the high-end market.

---------------------------------------
A November 2011 Deadline for Open Skies
---------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Following discussions with ministers of transport
(ref A), development (ref B), and finance (ref C), the
Ambassador raised the possibility of an Open Skies agreement
with Tunisia to expand trade and to move beyond the current,
relatively low, annual level of 20,000 U.S. visitors. Tlatli
said that the GOT had set an internal deadline of November
2011 to sign several aviation agreements, including an Open
Skies agreement with the United States. (Note: As reported
in ref D, the Embassy sent a model text of an Open Skies
agreement to the GOT in September 2009. End note.) Tlatli
also said that Tunisia's national carrier, Tunisair, was
negotiating a codeshare agreement with Delta Airlines; he
said that Delta appeared reluctant to accept a codeshare with
Tunisair, preferring to partner with European airlines.

------------------------------------------
Opportunities for U.S.-Tunisia Cooperation
------------------------------------------

4. (SBU) The Ambassador and the minister discussed other
opportunities to increase U.S.-Tunisia trade and tourism
links, including the "Memphis in May International Festival,"
which will host a "salute to Tunisia" this year. Tlatli also
said that his brother, Adel Tlatli, is the head coach of the
Tunisian national basketball team, which will face the U.S.
team in Istanbul, Turkey on September 2 at the International
Basketball Federation World Championship. Tlatli said that
some 17 million U.S. viewers are expected to watch the game
on television, and he asked the Ambassador to assist the
ministry's request for free airtime for a commercial
promoting tourism in Tunisia.

5. (SBU) Updated biographic information on Minister Tlatli
has been sent to INR/B via email.
GRAY

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