Thursday, February 27, 2014

Egypt: Update--German Government Opts to Urge German Citizens to Leave Egypt, Foreign Office Decides to Roll the Dice

According to The Telegraph, the German branch of Tui Travel, Europe’s largest tour operator, and other companies are sending home hundreds of German tourists after the German government changed its travel advice to the region. 

Tui UK; however, the parent company of Thomson and First Choice, has told Telegraph Travel it has no plans to do the same for British tourists. 

A spokeswoman said Tui UK is following the advice of the British Foreign Office, which, while advising against all but essential travel to South Sinai, did not apply the warning to Sharm el-Shiekh.

“Thomson and First Choice always follow UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice,” Tui UK said. “Their overall level of advice for Hurghada, Marsa Alam and Sharm el- Sheikh, the only areas of Egypt that we currently operate to, has not changed.”  

COMMENT: Yesterday (February 26), German authorities recommended its citizens refrain from traveling to the beach resorts in Sinai and said those already there should make arrangements with their travel agent to return early, according to Reuters. Germany is one of the largest markets for tourism in Egypt, along with Russia.  

Thomas Cook Germany said it was bringing back customers this weekend and that they would be refunded for the days of their holiday that were missed. 

The tour operator Alltours also said 120 holidaymakers were returning from Sharm el-Sheikh tonight. 

“The safety of our customers is always our number one priority and the UK FCO advises that enhanced security measures are in place to protect resort areas as a precaution,” she added. 

“Our experienced overseas resort team is updating all those currently on holiday in Sharm el-Sheikh, Hurghada and Marsa Alam and is reporting that customers are enjoying their holidays as normal.” 

The resorts of Hurghada and Marsa Alam are more popular for Germans than Sharm el-Sheikh, which is favored by Britons. 

British travelers who have holidays booked in Sharm el-Sheikh will not be able to claim a refund or change their itinerary unless the Foreign Office warning is changed to include the resort. 

Egypt suffered its worst September ever last year in terms of visits from international tourists, with a 90% year-on-year drop in numbers compared to September 2012. 

The FCO ban against all but essential travel to the South Sinai peninsular outside of Sharm el-Sheikh followed an explosion on a tourist bus near Taba, another resort, that killed three tourists on February 16. Advice to avoid all travel to the North Sinai region was already in place. 

British tourists staying in Sharm el-Sheikh have effectively been confined to the resort as they will be unable to travel on excursions elsewhere in the peninsular. 

The Foreign Office describes the threat of terrorism as “high” and suggests that attacks on foreigners are a possibility. 

"We believe that terrorists continue to plan attacks," it says. "Attacks could be indiscriminate and occur without prior warning. 

"Terrorists could target protesters and Egyptian authorities. Attacks have mainly been aimed at the security forces, their facilities and other government buildings. You should take great care near these buildings. Attacks targeting foreigners can’t be ruled out.”