The travel industry needs to be much more straightforward with holidaymakers about the risks involved in travelling to destinations hit by the recent wave of Arab unrest, according to the Middle East & North Africa Travel Association.
“In some ways, there is no better time to visit Egypt or Tunisia” said MENATA’s Executive Director Peter Lilley. “There are thousands of bargain holidays available. Package prices to Egypt have been slashed by up to 40% while summer holidays to Tunisia are available for less than £300 for seven nights’ half-board at the end of June. You would struggle to find a weekend break in the UK for that price.”
Said Mr Lilley: “MENATA’s advice to potential holidaymakers to Egypt and Tunisia is straightforward. We believe the countries are essentially safe and that there is no real reason not to visit. Both countries desperately need tourists to return and they can be assured of a warm welcome. But there are some risks involved and we feel it is better to be upfront about those – to assist potential holidaymakers to make an informed decision.
”Both Egypt and Tunisia are currently ruled by interim presidents and temporary governments which have never been seen as the hallmarks of stolidness and stability. Both countries also remain quite volatile and no-one can completely rule out the possibility of further street protests. But then, there was a violent street protest in London on Saturday and no-one’s expecting overseas visitors to start avoiding the UK because of that incident.”
Mr Lilley added: “In the end, holidaymakers need to make a choice. They can either take advantage of the excellent value for money currently offered by Egypt and Tunisia while understanding there’s just a possibility their travel plans may be disrupted. Or they can opt for what they perceive is a safer European resort – even if that means paying more. There’s no right or wrong answer. Holidaymakers need to make the decision which suits them.”
Mr Lilley said he believes one of the reasons why tourism has been quite slow to return to Egypt and Tunisia is the result of mixed messages from the travel industry, with national tourist offices claiming resorts are safe at the same time as tour operators are busy slashing their programmes to the region.
Mr Lilley urged all those involved in promoting tourism to the Middle East and North Africa to work more closely together to provide holidaymakers with reliable and consistent information and guidance.