Inspections at a collection of Tui’s Tunisian hotels in the wake of the Sousse attack found that security guards were ill-equipped to deal with a terror threat and had “no dedicated security plan”.
The inquest into the June 2015 Sousse massacre – where 38 tourists were killed on a Sousse beach and at Tui-run Imperial Marhaba Hotel – heard security risk management firm Covenant assessed other hotels which the operator sent guests to before Tunisia was taken off the UK market.
Its conclusion was they had “no dedicated security plan”, staff understanding of terror threats was “low” and knowledge of evacuation and ‘in-vacuation’ processes [where guests are asked to lock themselves in their rooms for safety] was “simply not good enough”.
The report, read out to coroner Judge Nicholas Loraine Smith, also concluded that Tui or its hotel partners needed to provide security guards with equipment such as walkie-talkies and not to “let them down”.
The Imperial Marhaba was not included in the checks as it was still a “crime scene”, the inquest heard.
Lee Doddridge, director of Covenant, which also carried out security checks at Tui hotels in Egypt after the terror attack in Luxor in 2014, had offered to perform checks on the operator’s Tunisian properties in the wake of an earlier terrorist attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunis three months before Sousse.
Doddridge had referred to an Islamic State propaganda video on Youtube which vowed a campaign of terror in Tunisia.
But the inquest heard that Ian Chapman, Tui’s director of holiday experience, had dismissed the approach as Covenant “pitching for work”.
Chapman was also made aware of another incident in Tunisia where a soldier killed colleagues at an army barracks but did not raise it.
He went on to say it “didn’t strike me as a terrorist attack” and suggested he was pleased European press had not picked up on the incident as it would have been “detrimental to Tunisia as a destination”.
The inquest also heard statements from three of the four security staff working on the day of the Sousse attack.
Each fled the scene and later said they did not have the equipment or training to deal with a terrorist incident.
Tui had employed the services of Argent to carry out health and safety checks 16 of the 17 sections in approved guidelines to UK tour operators. The one section it didn’t routinely check was security.
Andrew Ritchie QC, representing 18 of the families of the victims of the attack, said Tui had “11 weeks to tidy up the Imperial Marhaba Hotel and save lives” following the Bardo attack.
Questioning Tui’s director of risk compliance Jacque Reynolds at the inquest, he said: “Your organisation might have saved quite a few lives by having this [a security plan] in place.”
Reynolds replied: “That’s your opinion. The points that are raised in the document [the report on hotel safety] are very clear common sense points with regards to security.”
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