"The situation is clearly dangerous and we call on all sides to show restraint and avoid violence" - Holidays in Egypt!

Yesterday I did an interview with Radio Lancashire when I was asked the question, "Would you go to Egypt?". I replied, "The question is not about me or what I would, I personally would not take my family, but the question should be asked of the senior executives of these travel companies; would they travel to Egypt and take their families there?".  The interviewer responded, "That's a very good question indeed!".

As we did in 2011, and indeed in the intervening months and years, we have been expressing our continued concern for holidaymakers travelling to that destination.

Once again, I offer my complete understanding and sympathy to the people of Egypt and offer the hope that they will be able to repair the fractures of that great country.

However, we have to ask the question; 'Is it right to continue to sell holidays to Egypt?'.

We saw during the last crisis and indeed during the crisis in Sri Lanka, travel companies continuing to sell holidays to destinations that offer a serious risk to holidaymakers.

The second question must surely be (as I highlighted in my radio interview), 'How can it be right for the UK Foreign Office (FCO) to effectively advise against travel to Egypt, but identify what is in effect two thin strips of land where it is OK to go on holiday?'

When you compare advice being given to UK holidaymakers by comparison to US Citizens, you can only conclude surely that such advice provides a 'green light' for travel companies to maintain their economic activity, whilst at the same time ensuring that British Holidaymakers are the 'foot-soldiers' in promoting British interests.

If you think it is safe to travel to Egypt, read the following quotes from the FCO's own advisory:

"While in Egypt they should stay at or close to home or a place of safety (e.g. their hotel), keep a low profile and pay close attention to their personal safety, particularly in the larger cities".

"More than forty rapes and sexual assaults of Egyptian and foreign women were reported at demonstrations on 30 June" (Note: we have noted a rise in the number of complaints from women who have been sexually harassed from the holiday resorts).

"Some press reporting suggests that some of those demonstrating in Tahrir Square and elsewhere are hostile and suspicious of any foreigners present".

I saw this report from the BBC's Jeremy Bowen, which provides for an accurate assessment of the situation on the gorund and indicates the potential for greater violence - you make up your own mind!

The title of the article you are reading contains an apparent quote from the UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague; I wonder how those sentiments sit with the guidance being given to UK Holidaymakers by the Foreign Office and by the Travel Companies who hide behind FCO advices?

Is is not time for the Foreign Office to throw open the doors and demonstrate a transparency on how these advisories are constructed and more importantly, the names and identities of those companies and individuals they consult in the UK and elsewhere?

Is it not also time to re-instate the FCO's 'Locate' service (this was a particularly poor decision by the government - see this commentary on how UK Citizens should take steps to protect or arm themselves with information)? The 'Locate' service enabled UK Citizens to electronically provide information as to their whereabouts should they be needed in a crisis - time for a re-think?

For existing or intending holidaymakers, we again offer the following brief advice:

  1. Ironically, follow the guidance of the FCO and your Travel Company if you are already there;
  2. If you are already in Egypt, or about to travel to Egypt, contact your travel insurer and explain your situation;
  3. You should always follow the guidance of your travel insurer;
  4. If you are about to travel to Egypt and your travel insurer withdraws your insurance cover, you should not travel without travel insurance;
  5. You should advise your travel company that you have no Travel Insurance cover. Most travel companies have a clause within their terms and conditions, that you cannot travel without adequate travel insurance cover;
  6. Your Travel Company should assist you with that issue - do not simply take their word that it is OK to travel without travel insurance - get them to put that in writing - also get them to agree in writing that they will cover all costs, without limit. If they offer another 'off the shelf' travel insurance product, make sure that you get in writing from the Travel Company and the Travel Insurance Provider that you will receive full cover if you travel to Egypt;
  7. If you cannot secure Travel Insurance cover, then you and the Travel Company may be in breach of an essential term of the contract if travel takes place and this may offer serious detriment to you if you travel - you should seek legal assistance immediately and before you travel to establish your rights;
  8. If you are intending to travel to Egypt, despite the representations of the FCO and the Travel Company, you may be able to claim that a 'Significant Change' has taken place and that you should be offered your rights under Regulation 12 & 13 of the Package Travel Regulations;
  9. Those rights allow for you in the first instance to receive your money back without penalty, and, where the Travel Company advises that a 'Significant Change' is taking place before departure, the should offer you an upgrade, where possible, a downgrade, where available with the price difference being re-paid, or your money back - you may also be entitled to compensation;
  10. Those rights do not state that you have to pay for changes!
  11. Equally, the Regulations are silent about what happens when a Consumer advises of a 'Significant Change' before departure - we take the view that the Consumer is a party to the contract and also has a responsibility to highlight difficulties within the contract and therefore the same rights should flow;
  12. If you are in resort and are affected by the situation and the facilities at your hotel are considerably reduced as a result of the current political difficulties, then you may be able to use your rights under Regulation 14 of the Package Travel Regulations;
  13. Regulation 14 simply states that where a significant proportion of the services that you have contracted for are not provided, then you should complain to the rep (it is also clear that when they realise that the services cannot be provided, then they should also act)! The rep has to find a solution.  If that solution is impossible to find or is rejected by the Consumer for good reasons, then the Travel Company 'will' provide the Consumer with 'equivalent' transport back to their original destination.  Any arrangements made are done so without cost to the Consumer and in some circumstances, compensation may also be payable;
  14. If you are already in Egypt, make sure you keep a diary of events or failures of services in your 'holiday'; take great care if you are taking photographs or video - use your discretion! Take names and addresses of your fellow holidaymakers - this will help in location/identification if the situation deteriorates!
  15. If you are about to travel, research widely about Egypt so that you can make your arguments with your Travel Company successfully - use AlJazeeraThe Daily News EgyptThe Egypt Independent. You may also consider postings on Trip AdvisorTwitter and Facebook from other holidaymakers.

Tags: Egypt Sharm El Sheikh Taba Hurghada Risk Destination FCO Foreign and Commonwealth Office Travel Advisories Political Unrest

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