BBC Panorama's investigation into the 2015 Sousse beach attack has revealed the raw emotion that has remained hidden since that fateful day. The attacks have proved to be a watershed in Travel Advisories and how holiday destinations are sold; for British holidaymakers and their families it was not just about unbearable grief but an innocence that was lost in the sands of Sousse.
Scenes from the programme revealed:
- The palpable terror of holidaymakers;
- The bravery of ordinary Tunisians;
- Barricaded rooms;
- Failures and fears of the resort police;
- Police apparently being ill-equipped with weaponry;
- No professional action-plan for the resort police against acts of terror;
- Reports of previous attacks and threats of future attacks;
- Failure of Authorities to react to requests for extra security resources;
- Information on the growth of radicalisation amongst young Tunisians;
- Amid a deteriorating situation in Tunisia and credible threats, no increase of or placement of security;
- Holidaymakers demonstrating how they examined and challenged advisories given by government and tour operators;
- Holidaymakers being effectively advised if they cancelled because of their concerns on security, that 'normal booking conditions apply';
- Evidence of how some hotels improved security;
- The agony of local Tunisians against a backdrop of threat and lost tourist opportunities;
- Concerns from holidaymakers about how the Justice system has dealt with the accomplices to some of the acts of terror;
- The programme identified the 'master mind' alleged to have been behind the attacks.
Neither the Foreign & Commonwealth Office nor the Tour Operator would make comment upon the programmes investigation or allegations.
In 2016, the UK FCO carried out a brief Consultation into their Travel Advisories; this Organisation provided substantial contribution to that Consultation but as yet, nothing has changed in the construction of those advisories.
There has been much debate amid a succession of attacks since June 2015, with the oft repeated mantra that 'we must not give into terror'.
We take the view that such an expressed sentiment whilst expressing a common position, fails to produce relevant action to mitigate against threat.
In our view, and subject to checks and balances to protect our civil rights, the following should be urgently considered and actioned:
- Consideration to zoning of major travel ports and key resorts;
- A full and comprehensive overhaul of UK FCO Travel Advisories, and
- The need for Travel Companies to import a broader description and advices into their Travel Brochures and a complete review of how those same Travel Companies deal with the concerns of holidaymakers when a destination becomes the focus of risk.
Frank Brehany, the Consumer Director for HolidayTravelWatch states:
"The painful experiences revealed of by the British & French holidaymakers come as no surprise to me or this Organisation; since the start of the Arab Spring, we have consistently raised concerns about how security operates in resorts and in particular how Government Travel Advisories and the advices given by Travel Companies assess that risk and presents its findings to Consumers. We have called for a root and branch reform of Travel Advisories and indeed how Travel Companies present information to Consumers. I think that the programme is correct when it suggests that 'more could have been done' in Tunisia; Egypt, Turkey, France and Belgium further underline the urgent necessity to not just consider measures and changes, but to take the necessary action to protect Consumers"