I want you to read what a holidaymaker has written to us regarding their forthcoming holiday to Egypt (we don't normally highlight a travel company's name in a Consumer story, but in this instance, we consider the issues are very serious and this is the same reaction being offered by other travel companies to Consumers):
"I have a family holiday to Egypt (El Gouna) booked for 27 Dec 13 and in light of recent violent and terror activity my family and I do not wish to travel there. The FCO states that my resort is in a safe area and as such Thomas Cook are unwilling to refund my deposit of £800 or let me transfer the money to another holiday next year without incurring the Admin charge of £200 (£50 pp). However my holiday plans would include travel to places such as Luxor which are in the area to avoid.
All I want is to transfer the £800 and not be under the restrictions reserved for normal change / transfer conditions. Which are £50pp admin charge and limited to 6 months from date of original departure. 12 months or even 8 months would be more appropriate.These are not normal conditions and are out of my control. I have been a loyal customer to Thomas Cook buying in excess of £30,000 worth of hoilidays over the last 10 years or so and believe a little bit of common sense here is not too much to expect".
Just because this holiday is due to take place in December 2013, that doesn't sound too unreasonable, does it? Were lessons not learnt from Egypt & Tunisia in 2011?
Consider then the latest news from Egypt; a democratically elected President deposed, the military in control, violence on the streets and 42 people killed at the week-end! In the meantime there are calls for an 'uprising' (Muslim Brotherhood), the Freedom & Justice Party are calling for protests against "those trying to steal their revolution with tanks" - the same organisation has also apparently called for International help to prevent further 'massacres' and to stop Egypt turning into another Syria! Because of the 'massacre' the Salafist Nour Party is withdrawing from talks to choose a Prime Minister and the Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar University has apparently warned of a 'civil war' and has withdrawn from public life until the violence ceases!
Just in case anyone feels that this is not being reported accurately, more of the same from Al-Jazeera, the Daily News Egypt, and the Egypt Independent advises that Israel has ordered all its citizens to leave the Sinai 'immediately'!
So what does the UK Foreign have to say? Well since our article a few days ago, very little has changed; we are still advised as citizens that it is safe to travel to the two thin strips of land at the bottom of the Sinai Peninsula and the land bordering the Red Sea opposite the Sinai Peninsula - oh really?
At the risk of not ever being invited again into the beautiful Foreign Office building in Whitehall, I must ask, which or what collective wit came up with this guidance?
I am amazed to read the following in their guidance (today 8/7/13):
- "Protests and disturbances have blocked roads in parts of Egypt including Sinai, Aswan, Qena, Suez and between Luxor and Hurghada"
- "The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the Governorate of South Sinai, with the exception of (i) the Red Sea Resorts including those in the entire region of Sharm el Sheikh, Taba, Nuweiba and Dahab; (ii) the St Catherine’s Monastery World Heritage Site; (iii) road travel between the Red Sea resorts; (iv) road travel from the Red Sea resorts to St Catherine’s Monastery approaching from the east; and (v) transfers between the resorts and the airports of Taba and Sharm el Sheikh.The security situation outside the resort areas in the Governorate of South Sinai has deteriorated since early 2012 and there have been a number of hijacks, robberies and kidnaps in the interior of the Governorate. Major tourist resorts and the St Catherine’s Monastery World Heritage Site area remain stable and calmOn 6 March 2013 two British tourists were stopped while travelling near Ras Sudr, on the Suez to Sharm el Sheikh road, and detained by a local tribe. They were released unharmed.On 21 March 2013 two foreign nationals were kidnapped on the Taba to Dahab road while travelling at night. They were released unharmed five days later.In March 2012 there were two robberies at gun and knifepoint of tourists travelling late at night on unlicensed tour buses on the coast road north of Sharm el Sheikh.You should be aware that the long-standing policy of the British Government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British Government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage-taking".
- "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. They should take particular care to avoid crowds. The situation is changeable and they should continue to watch our travel advice closely.
What I just do not get is how travel companies or a government department could think that sending holidaymakers to a destination in turmoil is good for the local economy or for British interests! Surely there is a greater effect on a tourist economy by having worried holidaymakers either cancelling or sharing their experiences with others, who then in turn choose not to travel there?
The people of Egypt need space and time to heal; let's not foist holidaymakers on them at this difficult time!
This holidaymaker will receive assistance from us to guide them through this morass, but I sincerely hope that the FCO nor any Travel Company will have to live in regret, because a holidaymaker was killed or injured, all for the sake of common sense!