Ben Ireland reports from the Royal Courts of Justice
Customers buying Thomson holidays to Tunisia online did not see any links to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s travel advice until the payment screen, an inquest has heard.
Evidence presented at the inquests into 30 Britons killed in the Tunisian resort of Sousse outlined the tour operator’s booking process.
The court heard that, before payment, holidaymakers would see the Thomson brand’s homepage, Tunisia page, flight options, accommodation options and extras such as insurance before the payment screen.
At the time of the attack the FCO warned of a “high risk of terrorism” but did not advise against travelling.
Samantha Leek QC said: “There’s nothing in the booking process up until this point that directs them [customers] to the Foreign Office website or travel advice.”
Tui’s general manager for digital services, operations and its quality team, Marc Worrall, responded: “Not at this stage.”
She also asked him if reading travel advice forms part of the terms and conditions customers are asked to sign, to which he replied “no”.
Representing Thomson parent company, Tui, Howard Stevens QC argued that links to FCO advice were available at three points: the essential information tab on the Tunisia page, the FAQ section and on the payment page.
Andrew Ritchie QC, representing 20 of the families of the victims of the attack, told Mr Worrall that the “minimum requirement” for Tui as an FCO Know Before You Go partner, was to have a “permanent logo” on its site, a link to the FCO website and “explanatory copy” alongside the link.
Worrall said he had not heard of the Know Before You Go campaign prior to Sousse and said he was told what information to add to the site.
Ritchie went on to ask whether the website was changed after a terrorist attack at the Bardo museum in the Tunisian capital Tunis, which took place three months before Sousse. Worrall said it had not and the Bardo attack was not specifically mentioned on Tui’s website.
Ritchie told the court that the only mention of terrorism in the FAQ section was under the visas guidelines, which he said was irrelevant because Brits did not need visas to enter Tunisia.
The court was shown stock answers that Thomson staff were told to give to customers in shops when asked about the safety of Tunisia. They were told to refer to FCO advice and that it’s ‘green’ level had not changed.
Staff were also told to say they had cancelled excursions to the ‘red’ and ‘yellow’ areas and that “Tunisia remains a popular destination for us”.
Worrall added that since the Sousse attack, Tui includes the Know Before You Go campaign on “almost every page” of Thomson and First Choice websites including on “each page within the booking process”.
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