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Reports that terror group ISIS plans to attack European resorts this summer have led to a call for an industry-wide version of the government’s Cobra crisis response meetings.
A report in Germany’s Das Bild newspaper warned of “concrete plans” by terrorists to use bombs buried under sun beds and suicide bombers disguised as beach sellers in resorts in southern France, Costa del Sol in Spain and coasts of Italy.
The German Federal Intelligence Service was informed about the threat on holiday resorts by Italian intelligence chiefs, according to the newspaper, following a “credible source in Africa”. The terrorist plot has been linked to terror group Boko Haram in Nigeria.
Steve Dunne, executive chairman of travel PR group Brighter Group, called for the industry’s version of Cobra (Cabinet Office Briefing Room A) meetings, held in response to national or regional crises, to be set up.
He said: “We need to bring together all the industry’s brain power, representing tour operators, big cruise lines, agents, and airlines to communicate what the industry needs to do. At times like this they need to put competition aside for the greater good to give a consistent message.
“The industry doesn’t seem to have a common voice. For me it is now time for some of the industry’s bodies to stand up and bring together the top brains in PR and reputation management because I don’t think this will go away.”
He described the report as “incredibly scary”, in part because of the large readerships of the tabloid newspapers which subsequently ran stories on the warnings.
He said: “This is the kind of report that takes hold. It could be picked up by the rest of the media and they could keep it going. This could pull the rug from under the Mediterranean market.”
In reference to last June’s beach massacre in Tunisia, in which 30 British holidaymakers were killed by a gunman, Dunne added: “Tunisia is still fresh in people’s minds so this is not great stuff for the industry.”
The chairman of the Association of Independent Tour Operators also raised concerns about the impact the report could have on the travel industry.
Derek Moore said: “This will cause alarm to some travellers. I am interested to learn what measures the governments in the countries that might be under threat will take to reassure travellers to their region.”
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it does not comment on intelligence matters. It has not changed its travel guidance to any destinations following the report.
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