Opinion: FCO travel advice must be measured

Opinion: FCO travel advice must be measured

By Nikki White, head of destination sustainability at Abta

When crises happen abroad, Abta often gets asked about the safety implications for Britons.

But we are also asked whether it is right for holidaymakers to be travelling to destinations in turmoil. Is it right for Brits to be sipping martinis by the pool when local people are recovering from a natural disaster or going through political upheaval?

What is often overlooked is the importance of continuing to support local businesses at a time when they need it most.

Yes, if something happens on the doorstep of a tourist resort it may well be inappropriate for people to continue their holiday; but, more often than not, the incident has occurred hundreds of miles away. The last thing locals would want is for people to pack their bags and leave.

We Brits have always prided ourselves on our resilience and stoism in the face of adversity. That is why it is essential that our government continues to provide sensible advice to travellers that is based on facts and reality rather than bow to pressure.

For hotels and resorts, the impact of international decisions and media coverage in regard to travel advice can have a huge impact on local communities and employees.

The recent challenges in Egypt and the Red Sea resort areas have highlighted the importance of such decisions on local employment and communities.

Over the summer, the situation in Egypt changed dramatically, prompting most European countries to advise against all travel to Egypt. The UK was one of a minority that advised travellers to continue with their holidays in the Red Sea resorts.

At the time there was much criticism in the national media that the government was putting Brits’ lives at risk. However, the FCO’s advice was based on balanced, considered information, taking into account the situation on the ground, and the reality of the size and scale of the country.

The pay-off in the case of Egypt was that customers continued to travel and did not encounter issues. The Red Sea resorts continued to provide employment and kept hotels running.

Many other countries have now revised their advice, bringing it in line with the UK’s.

The situation is still challenging for many Egyptians: occupancy rates in areas that the FCO is advising against travel to are down to 1-2%.

As an industry with extensive contacts within tourist destinations, we all have a role to play in keeping the information flowing to the government.

One of the easiest ways to do this is by keeping in touch with Abta’s operational bulletins and responding to us with any additional insights you may have.

At Abta, we are in regular touch with the authorities, both here and in the destination, and we use the information from our members to help inform them.

This helps to make balanced judgments and travel advice 
that doesn’t unnecessarily harm local livelihoods.

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