Excursions from CG, Part I: ‘Nobody Has Ever Followed This Itinerary Before!’
To soak up the sun by the pool or on the beach and to sleep a lot in a cozy hotel room are definitely good ideas. However, you can fully experience traveling only when you go on an excursion. Immersing yourself in the unfamiliar local culture, discovering something new and interesting are truly exciting!
The specialist with many years of work experience in the travel industry, Tunisia Destination Manager in Carthage Group, Mrs. Irina Boukadida, will tell us about new tour itineraries, best-selling excursions and unusual, author tours.
Lots of countries boast fascinating excursion itineraries. Does Tunisia have some advantages over other popular tourist destinations in terms of guided tours?
The regions of Tunisia vary really a lot. The North of the country is the land of forests and mountains, it features tile-roofed houses and storks, and it almost looks like a European idyll. The South of Tunisia enjoys the great and impressive Sahara Desert and Bedouin exotica. The seaside has magnificent beaches which are meant for relaxation and sunbathing, fishing and doing water sports. The country has plenty of opportunities for organizing tours for every taste.
Another peculiarity refers to the centuries-long history of the places which make up modern Tunisia. Many peoples left their marks here, for example, the Romans and Byzantines, the Arabs and French. All of them left their legacy, historical sites and monuments many of which are of great value and are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Moreover, Tunisia is a relatively small country, its total area is just 163,610 km2. It won’t take several days to get to a tour destination, travelers will have to spend only several hours on the road. The most popular tourist attractions are located an hour- or an hour-and-a-half-drive from the resorts of Hammamet and Sousse. The longest road trip is to the Sahara, it takes six hours. However, it’s divided into parts, each of which can’t take over two hours and alternates with tea-coffee breaks, time for taking photos and short observing tours.
What kind of guided tours does Carthage Group offer its tourists?
We have historical and entertaining tours and sea trips. The variety of group tours which we offer is one of the widest or the widest on the market. Besides standard excursions, we have unusual, exclusive ones. Usually companies organize trips to the Sahara, Carthage, Friguia Park and that’s all. In addition to common well-known tours we also offer some half-a-day tours. They include a standard El Jem – Kairouan tour, an excursion to Sousse and Monastir with visits to two medinas and museums, a tour to Oudna and Zaghouan with a visit to an oil mill and olive oil tasting, as well as an excursion to Nabeul with wine tasting.
We provide individual tours for a different number of travelers. We can organize tours with custom-tailored itineraries planned in advance for both 20-25 participants and 2 people. Consequently, appropriate vehicles are provided, for instance, Hyundai buses, mini-buses and micro-buses, Toyota Land Cruiser jeeps, budget-friendly Toyota Yaris cars and vehicles of other brands and customizations.
How many excursions are in your list?
There are about 15 group tours that we offer our tourists. Individual tours are countless, we can arrange and plan any itinerary and organize any tour.
Do your guests have any nation-related preferences in choosing guided tours?
Yes, travelers from different countries differ a lot from one another. Some vacationers like spending time on the beach, soaking up the sun and swimming in the Mediterranean sea. While some travelers like the ones from Bulgaria, who can enjoy beach holidays in their home country, prefer traveling around Tunisia.
Bulgarians are probably the most active tourists in Tunisia. They come just for 7 days and often buy 4-5 excursions. They are interested to see everything: Carthage, the Sahara, the medinas of Tunisian cities and other attractions.
How can individual tours be booked? Is it done with tour operators and travel agencies or are there other ways?
We receive and fulfill orders from our partner companies, as well as from individuals.
Speaking about tour operators and travel agencies, when they book accommodation with us, they also usually book a tour program, including individual tours. Sometimes accommodation is booked via some international platforms or with other destination management companies, but as for guided tours, tourists still turn to Carthage Group. We’re no longer surprised by such requests because satisfied travelers and word-of-mouth recommendations are a powerful promotion tool that always matters.
As for requests from individuals, they contact us via email which they can find on Carthage Group website. Phone numbers of our specialists who can be contacted regarding the organization of guided tours, are often shared between interested customers. For example, it’s the phone number of a recognized expert in the travel industry, a professional with many years of experience, Alla Filimonova, and my phone number as well.
Is it always done in advance, before arriving in Tunisia? Can guided tours, including individual ones, be booked on the spot?
Of course, they can be bought in Tunisia. Our travelers can purchase excursions from their hotel guide. Also tourists often contact me directly, and then, depending on the urgency, scale and difficulty of the task, I either delegate it to a hotel guide or give it right to the Excursion Service Department.
Thus, quite recently, at the beginning of May, I got a call from such tourists who bought 4 guided tours: to the Sahara, Carthage, Dougga and Sousse-Monastir. We organized the trips perfectly, guests came back home feeling happy and satisfied and they want to travel to Tunisia again to continue exploring the country.
Sometimes we find tourists in thematic communities on social nets. In January I saw an interesting request in one of the tourist communities on Facebook, and I realized that we can make a requested tour. Travelers wanted to visit Carthage and have a walk in Sidi Bou Said, then to go on a tour to Bizerte and Utique. They were going to go on the third excursion to El Jem and Kairouan with a visit to a museum in Sousse but after the first two tours they changed their minds and decided to go to Oudna and Zaghouan. We’re very flexible in terms of planning tour itineraries, so we changed it on the spot.
Individual tours can be really unusual, can’t they?
Absolutely. And that’s what makes such requests especially interesting to fulfill.
For example, we had a request for a guided tour to Carthage for a family of four. Tourists asked for not just ordinary sightseeing but a custom-tailored tour program which should take into account the interests of each family member, including children of various age groups. At the same time the tour program should help a schoolboy to write a paper on Carthage.
Sometimes requests for individual tours are truly unusual. For instance, we have a regular client who comes to Tunisia once a year for two days, books a high-class transfer, drops his luggage at the hotel and we take him to the North of the country, to one of the wonderful places with eco-plantations and eco-domes where mobile network is not available. There you can literally sit under an olive tree in the field and enjoy the fresh air and a break from the outside world and our busy lives. That’s a form of an isolation retreat.
How often do travelers book individual tours?
An excursion to Carthage is certainly a best-selling one. Since the beginning of the year we’ve made about 20 individual tours and now we have over 50 requests for Carthage in particular.
By the way, we have an author excursion called ‘Three Capitals’. Actually, it’s not just a guided tour but an attempt to understand the historical and cultural heritage of Tunisia.
The first capital is, certainly, Carthage which was a city-state that dominated the western Mediterranean in the ancient world. Travelers have a unique opportunity to literally touch its ruins and feel the ancient greatness. The second capital is Sidi Bou Said, a Tunisia cultural center. Many artists and philosophers used to find their inspiration there, empowered by the atmosphere of the blue-white town with narrow cobbled streets and stunning views of the azure sea. Finally, the third capital is the magnificent city of Tunis.
You specialize in the organization of author tours, so your guests can expect a truly unique experience which they won’t be able to get anywhere else. Could you, please, tell us a bit more about it?
Sure. One of our latest tours is an excursion that we’ve already successfully arranged many times, it’s called ‘The Treasures of Old Tunis’ with an exceptionally talented guide Alex Peremot. The tour program was planned in autumn 2021, nobody has ever followed this itinerary before. The locale is the medina of Tunis, a place listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the jewel in the crown of Tunisian attractions.
It’s a walking tour on which guests have a great opportunity to see an old traditional Arabic town located in the heart of the capital from an unusual angle, enjoy a cup of tea or coffee at the oldest café in the country, Café El Mrabet and have lunch at restaurants with a well-deserved good reputation, Foundouk Attarine or Dar El Jeld.
An author excursion to Takrouna and Kesra is also popular with tourists. It’s called ‘The Berber Heritage of Tunisia’, a trip for everyone who likes ethnic culture.
Do you offer non-standard trips to the Sahara?
Yes, it’s another author tour planned by the Carthage Group team. This trip is a unique chance to see the desert through the eyes of Bedouins: to stay overnight in a tent, to admire the sun sinking the dunes, to hear the legendary sound of the singing dunes of the Sahara, to have dinner of local dishes and enjoy a folklore show, to sing guitar campfire songs and have a camel ride at sunrise to watch the desert waking up.
The tour program includes a visit to a mountain oasis Chebika, where travelers will be able to dive into the refreshing waters of a waterfall and explore the old oasis where Bedouins still grow dates.
Tunisia is a country where various religions coexist peacefully. Do you organize any specialized religion-related excursions?
Yes, there are lots of places of worship in the country, for example, an ancient synagogue, fascinating mosques, including underground ones, and Christian churches. Probably the most unusual excursion which we have ever arranged, was a tour around all Christian churches in Tunisia. It was a special request for two people who wanted to go on tour in a white Mercedes-Benz car.
Of course, we provided customers with a requested vehicle, we have something to choose from. In general, we always recommend renting a car from our fleet vehicles since we’re sure of both the professionalism of our drivers and the quality of cars and buses.
MICE tourism is quite popular now. On corporate tours employees of this or that company can not just relax and learn something new but get to know each other better, which produces a team-building effect. Do you arrange such types of tours?
We’ve had such an experience, we’ve worked with tourists who ordered team-building events.
Some years ago we hosted a group of restaurateurs for whom we organized a tour with tasting and a cooking master-class ‘Learn How to Cook Tunisian Food’. This topic got very popular, so now our guests – tourists and travel agents, really enjoy cooking brik, a traditional Tunisian pastry, a pie with different fillings.
MICE travelers also love trekking and hiking, for example, to the Atlas Mountains. Thus, we organized an excursion for a group that went up the mountain from Zaghuan and had a picnic at the top. However, it should always be taken into account that such trips aren’t suitable for everyone, participants should be more or less trained and physically prepared.
What was the highest number of travelers who went on your excursion?
Once we arranged a tour for 530 people. Of course, it wasn’t hiking but a trip to the most popular tourist attractions of the country. The entire group was accommodated at hotels in the suburb of the capital city, 12 buses with 12 tour guides started the excursion of an unprecedented scale all at once.
A great and really touching bonus for all the participants of the tour was an excellent group photo. By the way, we got a request for such a photo almost at the last minute and immediately started to think how to make many people fit in one photo. It was especially difficult because to get 530 travelers together was almost impossible as their buses went in different directions: 6 buses went to Carthage, the other 6 ones went to Sidi Bou Said, and then they changed their routes.
We found a solution: in the early morning, before the start of the tour, we divided the steps of the amphitheater in Carthage into several parts, marking with a piece of chalk the sectors where the passengers of every arriving bus should stand. Then our photographer put all these parts into one group photo.
Finally, it worked out, the picture was beautiful! The client liked it and guests got a wonderful souvenir of the trip.
The secrets of arranging tours which travelers really like, is the topic that should be discussed in detail. For this reason we’ll continue our talk with Mrs. Irina and tell you about some difficult cases which the Carthage Group team has had to deal with.
How to make a tour enjoyable for both adults and children? Can the passengers of cruise ships who have just a few hours of free time, count on exploring the country? Why excursions in Tunisia shouldn’t be booked with individuals?
To be continued, don’t miss it!