The UK Foreign Office has improved its travel advice but conflicting advisories from other EU countries has caused problems this summer in Egypt.
Thomas Cook director of government and external affairs Andy Cooper said: “Foreign Office advice is fundamental to us. But we operate in different markets and get different travel advice.
“We follow the advice in each market, but that does not help our customers. We may have people from different markets in the same hotels.”
Referring to Egypt, Cooper said: “The UK was unique in Europe [this summer] in not advising against travel to the Red Sea resorts.”
He told the Abta Travel Convention in Dubrovnik: “The British government has become more reluctant to warn against travel than in the past. Advice used to be more determined by political considerations.”
Foreign Office campaign manager Lynda St Cooke said: “We work quite closely with other EU countries. But other governments have different priorities and sometimes one nationality may be more affected than others.”
Cooper said: “Misinformation is a problem. The media can distort the position.”
For example, he said: “Kuoni decided to pull its customers out of Egypt. It had six [from the UK]. But we were asked ‘why aren’t you pulling out your customers?'”
Cooper added: “Once advice is relaxed, it’s a commercial decision when we go back in.” St Cooke said: “We’re very aware of the impact of advice on destinations, but it never overrides our concern about individuals.
“We never advise against travel if it’s not a risk to British travellers. But we would never not advise against travel if there is a risk.”
Orestis Rossides, UK director of the Cyprus Tourism Organisation, told the convention: “Cyprus has been through a series of crises. The most recent was the banking crisis this spring. There was a perception we didn’t have enough to eat.
“The UK Foreign Office took a fair position and the attitude of the UK travel press was sympathetic. Relative to other destinations, the UK was much better. The loyalty of UK visitors is impressive. However, they can’t be taken for granted.”
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