HolidayTravelWatch Calls for Action to Assist British Holidaymakers in Kenya
HolidayTravelWatch has noted the scenes and reports of problems during yesterday evening’s new bulletins from Kenya. We remain concerned for the safety of the many thousands of British Holidaymakers thought to be in Kenya at this time.
Review of Travel Advices between 2/1/08 and 11.26 3/1/08:
HolidayTravelWatch has noted the advices from the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), in which they now state (3/1/08):
“We advise against all but essential travel to Kenya. There is uncertainty about the security and political situation in the country especially in light of the massed rallies planned for 3 January and continued unrest linked to the disputed presidential election result”
The FCO goes onto state:
“If you are currently in Kenya we recommend that you stay indoors. You should exercise extreme caution and seek advice locally either from your tour operator or the local authorities particularly if you need to travel”
HolidayTravelWatch noted that up to the time of this release, and in particular 11.26 of 3/1/08, the Federation of Tour Operators (FTO), had not made any comment on their website on this serious issue, in fact the last press release up to that time was dated 23 October 2007!
The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), up to the time of this release, state on their website the following (2/1/08):
“The main tour operators to Kenya have confirmed to ABTA that they’re continuing to operate their holiday programmes as planned, and that normal booking conditions apply. The decision to continue with normal operations has been taken on the basis that:
1. Main tourist areas continue to be unaffected;
2. Transfers to and from airports in Mombasa and Nairobi are secure and traffic is flowing freely;
3. Transfers have precautionary police escorts;
4. There have been no reports from customers in resort asking to be brought back”
We further note their observation that:
“The effected areas are mainly confined to specific urban, low income, high density housing areas, many of which are in the west of Kenya. There is a heavy security presence around the City of Nairobi and all hotels are operating as normal. All roads to major tourist attractions are open and tourist traffic is flowing freely”
Observers will have noted our press release of the 2/1/08, in which we raise serious questions as to the extent of travel advices.
For the sake of completeness we note that Canadians are still being advised against all but essential travel, and note further, the advices of the Canadian Government (3/1/08):
“Violence and riots have been reported throughout the country, particularly in Nairobi and surrounding areas, in Mombasa and Kisumu. Airports are open and operational. Caution should be exercised on the road to Jomo Kenyata International Airport”.
The US Government advises its citizens (3/1/08):
“There have been reports of widespread violence, demonstrations, and looting in Nairobi and throughout Kenya. Although the security situation is changing, Americans in Kenya can expect airport closures; a large police presence; food shortages; cash shortages at banks and ATM’s; sporadic telephone, cell phone and internet service; and possible news blackouts. American citizens are strongly reminded that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can become violent. Americans should therefore avoid all demonstrations, protests and gatherings”
The US Embassy in Nairobi states (2/1/08):
“Since December 30, Nairobi has experienced rioting, looting and burning. There has been violence in other cities including Eldoret, Kisumu and Mombasa”.
Review of Travel Advices Post 11.26 3/1/08:
HolidayTravelWatch notes the ‘Breaking News’ feature on the BBC News Website (11.26 3/1/08) in which they report that ‘All UK holidays to Kenya on Hold’. The BBC have been advised by the FTO that the UK major Tour Operators have suspended holidays to Kenya for the next two days!
At the time of writing this press release, the ABTA website still presents their message of 2/1/08, summarised above.
At the time of writing this press release, the FTO website has now posted the following message:
“Members of the Federation of Tour Operators today announced that following advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office they were suspending holidays to Kenya with departures due up to and including Saturday 5 January due to the current political unrest. Customers due to fly over the coming days should contact their travel agent or tour operator. Alternative holidays for these customers will be offered where available or refunds of moneys paid. Customers currently in Kenya are being advised of the Foreign Office advice to travellers and are expected to return home on their planned departure dates. The situation is being reviewed daily and any changes to departures planned after 5 January will be made over the coming days and customers notified in advance”.
Frank Brehany, the MD of HolidayTravelWatch states:
“At last, common sense appears to be breaking out; however, this change of heart is only based on a two day period! These issues prove the points raised within our press release of 2/1/08. Travel advices are selective, and for the British Travel Consumer, they are at best disparate. The comment from ABTA that ‘normal’ operations are continuing is breathtaking; but more telling is the comment that ‘normal booking conditions apply’!”
“Holidaymakers should remember that they enjoy considerable rights under the Package Travel Regulations. Under Regulation 12, if a ‘significant’ change is made to your holiday, before departure, you must be informed by the operator of that change as soon as possible. You must then inform the operator of your acceptance to any changes, or that you wish to withdraw from the contract without penalty. Under Regulation 13 you are entitled to the following rights; to take a substitute superior or equivalent package if it is available, or, to take a substitute package of a lower quality, if available, or to have your money repaid to you as soon as possible. Under the same regulation you are entitled to compensation, however, they can invoke a defence that the circumstances for cancellation were unusual or unforeseeable and beyond their control. We would argue that this would not be correct, given the range of information that is clearly available in this case. If you are caught in resort, and a significant part of the package is not provided, the tour operator must under Regulation 14 make alternative arrangements at no cost to the consumer (compensation must be given for any price difference). If the consumer does not accept these changes, the operator must transport the consumer back home and where appropriate provide compensation. If in doubt, seek advice!”
“Up to the BBC News report, it can be seen that there is a clear difference between what the FCO and other Governmental agencies are advising citizens, and what ABTA was publicly advising holidaymakers. What was surprising was the lack of comment from the FTO, up to the time of the BBC News Report! The time has come to witness the great co-operation that apparently exists between the Travel Industry and the FCO. It is also time to either show that the Canadian and US Governments are misguided, or to provide a ‘joined up approach’ to travel advices. It is clear that the difficulties in Kenya will rumble on beyond 2 days, I sincerely hope that British Tour Operators will provide the full range of consumer rights under the regulations! My sympathies goes out to the many Kenyans who have been affected by this terrible situation, however, I also have sympathy for the many British Holidaymakers caught unwittingly in this dreadful situation. Maybe they can take comfort from the fact that ‘normal booking conditions apply’, or perhaps the time has come for clear plans for the evacuation of all British Holidaymakers!”
All Holidaymakers affected by any of these issues should call the National Helpline 08450179229 or make contact through the Organisation’s website –
HolidayTravelWatch is a National Consumer Organisation which provides information, advice and assistance to the holidaymaker or independent traveller, who experiences problems with their travel arrangements. In eleven years 130,000 people have benefited from the help provided by HolidayTravelWatch, with over 46% being empowered to resolve their own claims by the information the organisation provides on their consumer rights.
HolidayTravelWatch has campaigned in the past for improvements in travel safety and is proud to have been associated with some of the leading broadcast and print media projects aimed at informing the consumer. HolidayTravelWatch continues with that campaigning spirit and continues to work closely with the media and government departments alike.
Full details of the work of HolidayTravelWatch can be found on www.holidaytravelwatch.com
For further information on this press release and any other associated matters please contact Frank Brehany on 08450179229
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