The recent press announcement by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), calling on the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, to create the conditions for the resumption of flights from the UK to Sharm el Sheikh, has once again raised security concerns for holidaymakers.
They argue that the UK Department for Transport security conditions have been met following the downing of the Metrojet Russian airliner in 2015. It is curious however that they advise that:
"All other countries, including Germany and Russia, have allowed their airlines to start flying to Sharm el Sheikh again"
We note that they make no comment on whether the confidence in Tourism from any of these countries has returned to previous levels, which if they had, would tend to suggest that the UK angle would perhaps be superfluous?
They also cite that the impact of no British tourists in this main tourist area is having an impact on employment, the economy and that this:
"Has instilled a desperate disposition and thus vulnerability to radicalisation or to fleeing on a refugee boat".
We consider that this is not only a big statement to make but one that has not had the benefit of public evidence to support that proposition.
We also consider that the problems in Egypt are multiple in their origins and are not solely down to the tragic incident of the Russian airliner.
We are recorded many times as openly supporting the people of Egypt and expressing the hope that they will one day be able to return to normalcy. The solutions to problems in Egypt lies in the hands of their government and we stress again, whilst there is the threat of disorder or terror, holidaymakers should not be viewed as some economic foot-soldier in these unstable times; we are certain that the good people of Egypt would support that position simply because they want these same holidaymakers to return time and time again!
We consider that whilst the aims of the UNWTO & WTTC are honourable, they miss the obvious clue within the FCO advices.
The FCO advises its citizens that they have not changed their Travel Advisory for Sharm el Sheikh but they continue to advise against all travel to/from its airport. However, we consider the key descriptive wording for Sharm el Sheikh is:
"...the area within the Sharm el Sheikh perimeter barrier, which includes the airport and the areas of Sharm el Maya, Hadaba, Naama Bay, Sharks Bay and Nabq; however, we advise against all but essential travel by air to or from Sharm el Sheikh".
We ask: 'What does the FCO mean by 'perimeter barrier'?
In our view the FCO, Travel Companies and indeed the UNWTO & WTTC, need to define why there is a perimeter around Sharm el Sheikh and why there is a need to create a barrier; if they wish to capture the confidence of Consumers then they need to confront this obvious issue of security information.
Further, it is clear that the UK FCO still have some misgivings about security at Sharm el Sheikh airport, they currently state:
"We will continue working with the Egyptian Authorities to enable regular flights between the UK and Sharm el Sheikh to resume. We are also liaising with travel companies so that they are able to resume flights and holidays in Sharm el Sheikh as soon as appropriate security arrangements are in place"
Despite the assumption from the UNWTO & WTTC that the UK Department for Transport believes that the security requirements have been met, caution must be applied against pitting the DfT against the FCO.
We ask the Prime Minister to be cautious on this call from two powerful elements within the Travel Industry and ensure that only when conditions are right and that the region offers a greater stability should she sanction the resumption of flights.
Frank Brehany, the Consumer Director for HolidayTravelWatch states:
"It is with a heavy heart that I make this plea to Theresa May, over and above the stresses that the people of Egypt live under. However, whilst two powerful elements of the Travel Industry, quite correctly in my view, state their concerns, it is equally important that a Travel Consumer Organisation expresses theirs. Our concerns are evident and the Prime Minister must not be swayed by pressures from powerful players; we all want the best outcome for the Egyptian people but not at the expense of ordinary holidaymakers".