Questions of Security & Risk for British Holidaymakers to Egypt!

Since the Tunisian revolution, we have received many complaints from British Holidaymakers.  This flow of holiday complaints and how tour operators are responding to the Egyptian crisis, reveals a story of denial of facts and a lack of understanding of the fears of intending UK holidaymakers.  We have already commented on whether or not holidaymakers are being used as foot soldiers in Foreign Policy, but for many, their concerns centre in on whether they will be safe and how to wade through the often contradictory information, some of which paints a very rosy picture indeed!  What follows is a summary of our research which we hope will help you to track your way through the reality on the gound in Egypt:

BBC – 2/8/2010 – Report of Rocket attack on the Jordanian port of Aqaba. Several were injured; one death was reported. Missiles apparently landed in open spaces in Eilat, the Southern Israeli Red Sea Resort. It was claimed that the missiles were launched from the Egyptian Sinai region; Egypt denied that this was the case. A comment from Wyre Davies stated:

"Earlier this year, intelligence reports that Islamic militants in the Sinai were planning to abduct tourists brought a warning from Israel that its nationals should avoid travelling there. While many ignored that advice, thousands are holidaying in Eilat.... Israel believes there is a growing problem in the area, with increased militant activity, weapons smuggling and illegal immigration"

World Bulletin – 20/1/2011 – 1000 protesters demonstrate against the alleged Egyptian Government’s failure to assist them after flash floods. It was claimed that they threw stones at the police and blocked the main road leading from Ras Sedr to Sharm El Sheikh. The report claims that police fired teargas and rubber bullets at the crowd.

Carrentals.co.uk – 30/1/2011 – Exiting British Holidaymakers spoke of their relief to be leaving the country but admitted that they had not experienced any disruption. They thought that it was surprising that ‘more attempts’ had not been made to evacuate British Holidaymakers. The reports highlights the fact that there were many soldiers and police in the area as it would appear that President Mubarak’s villa is situated in Sharm El Sheikh. The report suggests that Mubarak is staying in his villa on a golf course. The author of the report speculates that if indeed Mubarak is resting there, then there is a serious risk of violence.

BBC - 30/1/2011 - BBC Reporter, Alex Belfield, who was on holiday, reported that his hotel was barricaded; the ‘hatches were being battened down’. Apparently all hotel guests through Sharm El Sheikh were being told that they could not leave the hotel for 24 hours. Staff were watching the news, concern as to what was going to happen next.

Trip Advisor - 30/1/2011 – Hurghada Forum: Current Curfew in Egypt – Holidaymakers commenting and guiding each other – Dutch tourists evacuated reported that there were tanks in Hurgahada and shopkeepers were protecting their properties with bats. Tour Operators denying that there were any protests in Hurghada. Concerns expressed about barricades around the hotels. Reports that tour operators are denying that a curfew exists or that the BBC website is wrong – there were no curfews inside the hotels! The curfew was being extended, but not to the Red Sea Resorts as the situation there was reported to be calm. One holidaymaker reported that a Minister had stated in parliament that the situation was not completely normal. Holidaymakers widely speculating on the curfew, possible fuel shortages and whether their travel insurance will be valid. Confusion from Travel Insurance companies. One lady spoke with a friend in Hurghada who advised that there was a food shortage. Reports of banks closed of cash machines empty. Reports of tanks on the streets of Hurghada, supermarket shelves not being re-stocked and fuel shortages. Reports from a resident in Hurghada (2/2/2011) of phone and internet supplies re-instated, ‘lots’ of police and ‘military stuff’, cash machines empty, local fears of food and fuel, small protests in Hurgahada, generally calm. Comments on the reported national strike; one tour operator apparently stating that the media ‘was lying’!

Manchester Evening News – 31/1/2011 – they reported that returning holidaymakers stated that violence had been witnessed in Sharm El Sheikh. One holidaymaker reported that they were told to return to their hotels in the Naama Bay Resort as there was ‘trouble’ in the old market district. The holidaymaker reported that locals were running around ‘shouting and screaming’. The reported that there was no communication. One holidaymaker reported that people in the same area had armed themselves with ‘knives, bats and guns’. He and his girlfriend were dragged into a shop and only with the assistance of a shopkeeper were they able to get a taxi back to their hotel. The article reported that holidaymakers had to conform to a curfew falling between 4pm to 8am the following day.

BBC – 4/2/2011 – Anonymous report from Sharm El Sheikh – The problems seem far removed, however, they managed to get food supplies, there had not been many during the previous week. The banks were closed and they were checking on ATM’s and believed that the banks would be open by Sunday. Not many tourists. Staff on rotation are not being relieved because other staff cannot reach Sharm El Shiekh, nor can staff return to their families because of the lack of transport. It was reported that some staff were reluctant to work because they had not been paid on 1/2/2011.

One holidaymakers report of a happy experience since 4/2/2011 via Twitter!

I thought that it would be a good idea to list the Countries that have ordered the evacuation of their citizens:

Austria

Azerbaijan

Australia

Brazil

Brunei

Canada

Finland

Germany

Italy

India

Iraq

Ireland

Israel

Kuwait

Russia

United States of America

It is understandable that intending holidaymakers would be anxious in the face of such information - a pity that the media input so far appears to have ommitted this research! My serious concerns relate to safety and the lack of travel insurance, from the evidence above, the same concerns are being expressed without any prompting from us!

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