Travel firms are not doing enough to inform travellers of the risk of terror attacks in destinations, the coroner in the case of 30 British holidaymakers killed in Sousse in 2015 has decided.
The senior judge who presided over the inquest into the deaths of the 30 TUI customers slaughtered on the beach in the Tunisian resort has concluded travel companies must do more to ensure holidaymakers are informed and hotels adequately protected.
However, he rejected the argument by lawyers representing the families of the dead that neglect by Tui and/or the owners of the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Sousse contributed to the deaths of the holidaymakers.
Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith sent a report on the killings to the UK secretaries of state for the Foreign Office and transport this week as well as to the chief executive of travel trade association Abta and the chair of the aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority.
His report has yet to be made public, but Judge Loraine-Smith recommended two action points to prevent future deaths:
Travel companies should appoint security advisers to their boards to ensure the hotels they use are adequately protected.
And travel firms, including those selling flights and hotel accommodation separately, should display a logo and links to the UK Foreign Office’s ‘Travel Aware’ programme providing detailed travel advice on every country.
The coroner criticised Tui during the inquest for failing to give enough information about the potential threat of a terrorist attack.
In his report, Judge Loraine-Smith noted Tui now has a security advisor on its board and has “taken steps to change its website and promotional literature to make these logos and links more prominent”.
But he expressed concern “that other companies which sell holidays or sell flights and hotel accommodation separately may not have taken such steps, as a result of which members of the public receive insufficient information about the risks of terrorist attacks in destination countries”.
He also raised concern that “if companies do not have security advisors at board level, then hotels they use will not be adequately protected”.
City of London law firm Hill Dickinson advised the industry that: “Given the comments of the coroner, travel companies need to ensure they are adequately informing travellers about the risks of terrorist attacks in destination countries.”
A spokesman for Abta said: “There has been much greater public awareness of the indiscriminate nature of terrorist attacks since the appalling attack in Sousse.
“Abta has taken steps to address the coroner’s recommendation for links to travel advice to be more prominently displayed.
“We will continue to work with members to make sure links to travel advice are visible on websites and that customers are directed to travel advice before they book.”
A Foreign Office spokesman noted: “The Sousse attack was the largest loss of British life to terrorism since 7/7 [the London tube and bus attack in July 2007].
“We will study the coroner’s report and recommendations and consider what actions we should take in response.”
The Foreign Office continues to advise against all but essential travel to Tunisia, ruling out any tourism from Britain.
Separately, the trial has begun in Tunisia of 24 people accused of involvement in an attack on tourists at the Bardo Museum in Tunis, where 21 people died three months before the Sousse assault.
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