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HolidayTravelWatch Questions the Effectiveness & Morality of Travel Advices


HolidayTravelWatch has watched the graphic scenes of violence in Kenya in recent days, and notes with concern, the growing risk to holidaymakers. In addition, the same concern is expressed for those visiting Sri Lanka.

Frank Brehany, the MD of HolidayTravelWatch states;

“I re-emphasise what I have already stated previously; we condemn all forms of violence, be they committed against holidaymakers, hotel staff, shopkeepers, bus drivers, in fact violence against anyone from whatever walk of life they are from, or whatever political or religious position they may hold. Our call for protections for holidaymakers is not just for this group exclusively, but for all people in whatever country they may reside. There is only one solution to these seemingly intractable problems that is a peaceful political solution. We question however, the wisdom of sending holidaymakers into clear ‘risk areas”.

In examining the current difficulties faced by holidaymakers, HolidayTravelWatch examined the issues affecting both Kenya and Sri Lanka, both in terms of history, and travel advices given.

(NOTE TO EDITORS: HolidayTravelWatch has fully researched the facts stated. Due to limitation in production it is not possible to re-produce the fully notated version. For full reference to sources, please view the original press release at

Kenya Facts:

Kenya is bordered by Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and the Indian Ocean;

In 2006, the UN estimated that 78% of the population were Christian, and between 10 – 15% were Muslim, who are mostly centred on the coastal region;

1998, the US Embassy in Nairobi was bombed and destroyed;

2001, Kenyan Authorities arrested 50 Muslims suspected of having links to al-Qaeda in Mombasa;

2002, suicide bombers attack the Paradise Hotel near Mombasa, killing 13 people;

2002, failed attempt to shoot down a passenger plane near Mombasa;

2003, UK & US Governments warned of imminent terrorist attack;

2003, it was estimated that Kenya earns $300m from tourism. The Kenyan Government criticises the US and UK Governments for issuing alerts which they considered hurt their tourist industry;

2004, Kenya Anti-Terrorist Police (trained and financed by the US) carried out raids along the Swahili coast of Kenya;

2007; At least 140 people (alleged to be Somali Islamists) fleeing Somalia, were arrested by Kenyan Authorities. Criticism is made of the alleged US-Kenya-Ethiopia-Somalia Rendition Circle;

2007, 85 of those detained were subject to ‘extraordinary rendition’ and flown to Ethiopia and Somalia ;

Fire – Southern Palms Hotel – June 2007;

Fire – Travellers Club Hotel – June 2007;

19 December 2007, Kenyan Authorities deport a British Muslim who had been detained following the seizure of grenades and guns in Nairobi and Mombasa;

Fire – Scorpio Villas Beach Hotel – 26 December 2007;

Fire – Housing Estate – 40 kms from Eldoret Town – 26 December 2007;

27 December 2007, Kenyan General Election;

2 January 2008, Kenyan election result in doubt, EU Observers state that the election “fell short of international standards”, at least 275 people reported to have been killed;

UK Foreign Secretary Appeals for Calm;

UK returning holidaymaker (Mombasa) states, “We saw burned out former buildings, bomb attacks. We saw people in large numbers on the streets…You could feel the tension there and you kept looking over your shoulder. It’s put us off going back to Kenya and we heard other people say the same. It’s just a great shame because it’s a beautiful country”;

BBC journalist raises the fear of ethnic cleansing as seen in Rwanda or Zimbabwe;

Returning holidaymakers and their experiences can be viewed via the BBC News Online at the following link –

Kenyan Travel Advices:

British Foreign Office – 2 January 2008 :

• Travellers are advised against all but essential travel to urban centres of Kisumu, Kakamega, Kericho, Eldoret – Areas around Mombasa: Kisuani, Likoni and Tiwi. Rural areas around Nakuru and Eldoret and Kericho in the Rift Valley. In addition Nairobi City Centre, Uhuru Park, Kibera, Mathare and Eastleigh;

• “We recommend that you stay indoors. If you need to travel, including to the airport, you should exercise extreme caution and seek advice locally either from your tour operator or the local Kenyan Authorities”;

• There continues to be serious unrest in parts of Kenya;

• General shortages of food and fuel supplies are being reported;

• There is a high threat from terrorism in Kenya (they only refer to the bomb attack on a hotel and the failed attempt to bring down passenger plane);

• “We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. You should check any exclusions….”

Canadian Government Travel Advices – 2.1.08 :

• “OFFICIAL WARNING: Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against non-essential travel to Kenya as a result of the current level of violence and instability following the presidential and parliamentary elections held on December 27, 2007”;

• Violence ‘has also erupted on the road to Jomo Kenyata International Airport’;

• “They should avoid unnecessary movements within cities and on roads, and exercise a high degree of caution”;

• “Canadian travellers already in Kenya should have their travel documents handy in case they choose to leave early. They should also register with the High Commission of Canada in Nairobi”;

• They warn of recent violent clashes between the Mungiki Criminal Gang and the Kenyan Police Force;

• They warn against travel to Northern Kenya near to the Kitale-Samburu-Garissa line, as it is considered unsafe because of the threat of terrorism and ‘various regional conflicts’. They also warn of violence in the Mount Elgon area. They conclude that the ‘possibility for terrorist attacks puts Canadians at greater risk in Kenya’;

• They provide a further official warning against travel to the border areas of Sudan, Somalia or Ethiopia. They state, “There is a risk of kidnapping in tourist areas of north-east Kenya near the Somali border. Westerners could be targeted”;

• Official Registration is recommended;

• They warn of the increase in carjacking and armed attacks, adding that “they are becoming increasingly violent and often involve fatalities”;

• “You should also remain cautious when visiting the tourist areas on the coast of Kenya, as the security situation could deteriorate rapidly without notice”;

• They provide specific safety warnings in and around Nairobi;

• Under Safety & Security they state, “It is the responsibility of individual travellers to make informed travel choices….in the event of a crisis situation that requires evacuation, the Government of Canada’s policy is to provide safe transportation to the closest safe location…the decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller”.

US Government Travel Advices – 2.1.08 :

• US Citizens are asked to consider ‘carefully’ the risks of travel to Kenya;

• US Citizens should ‘evaluate’ their safety ‘in light of continuing terrorist threats and increasing incidents of violent crime”;

• “Terrorist acts may include suicide operations, bombings, attacks on civil aviation, and attacks on maritime vessels in or near Kenyan Ports”;

• “Violent criminal attacks, including armed carjacking, kidnappings, and home invasions/burglary, can occur at any time and in any location, and are becoming increasing frequent, brazen, vicious and often fatal”;

• “Kenyan Authorities have limited capacity to deter and investigate such acts”;

• “Americans who travel to or reside in Kenya despite this Travel Warning are encouraged to register through the State Department travel registration website”.

Sri Lanka Facts:

HolidayTravelWatch notes the history of political dispute in Sri Lanka, from 1983 to the present day; in particular, the rise of more violent attacks throughout 2007 . The British Government has issued advice against all travel to the north of the A12 road from west to east, and the Jaffna peninsula. They also advise against all travel to the Yala National Park following “a number of incidents there and it is closed due to security concerns”. They also state that there is “a high threat from terrorism”. They conclude with the strong recommendation to obtain comprehensive travel insurance and to check any exclusions . The Canadian Government states through an “OFFICIAL WARNING” that they advise “against non-essential travel to Sri Lanka unless you have critical business or family reasons to do so” . The US State Department advises US Citizens “against travel to Northern and eastern areas of Sri Lanka”.

The HolidayTravelWatch View:

The Organisation continues to express its concern at the standard of travel advices being given to British Holidaymakers. We have previously expressed our views on this issue, and the apparent desire to send holidaymakers into potential risk areas. It is clear that when something goes wrong, the tour companies will cite ‘force majeure’ or an ‘Act of God’ in defence of any responsibility. We disagree with this response, and make clear, that man made disasters are often accompanied by a period of previous established behaviour, known to Governments and tour companies alike. They are surely responsible for clear, open and honest advices, which will allow a holidaymaker to make an informed choice as to his travel arrangements; a fact which is wholly supported by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) under Rule 1A of the ABTA Code of Conduct.

Frank Brehany states,

“We have no desire to affect to economy of any country. However, it is foolhardy of any politician, in any country, to expect any citizen to take a holiday, where there are difficult fundamental problems, or which supports actions which are internationally reviled, knowing that they may be exposed to risk. By any measure, there can be no bedrock of stability, either for the holidaymaker or the domestic hosts of such a country based on the illusion of normalcy. I fully support the views of Cath Urqhart, who in April 2006 stated, “When I go on holiday I want to relax, not to be a foot soldier in the War on Terror” It is abundantly clear, by any method of research, that all has not been well in Kenya for sometime, why then must British Holidaymakers be put at risk, surely the idea of sustainable tourism is to encourage the same holidaymakers to return to their destination? What chance has Kenya got now? What chance has any ‘risk’ destination got for a sustainable future where the holidaymaker is not given the facts?”

On the issue of travel advices, Frank Brehany states,

“I believe that the comparisons set out above, for Kenya and Sri Lanka, speak for themselves. Is the withholding of all the facts designed to ‘protect’ the British Holidaymaker, or designed to support a multi-million pound industry, or designed to appease a Foreign Government desperate for foreign currency, or is it part of the ‘quid pro quo’ on the so called ‘war on terror’? If the latter is true, and the holidaymaker faces a threat to his safety, how is that going to encourage him to return to that country or recommend it to others? Is it fair that the holidaymaker should not be provided with the facts at the time of his booking? I would certainly commend the Canadian Government’s ‘warts and all’ approach; why does the British Government not do the same?”

On the issue of FCO Travel Advices on Travel Insurance, Frank Brehany adds;

“I support the FCO reminding holidaymakers that they should have adequate travel insurance cover. However, supporting a destination with difficulties or risk, which could provide a threat to holidaymakers, is not going to receive the same support from Insurance companies. Many have exclusions in their policies for acts of terrorism, civil unrest, riots etc. Who will pay for the holidaymaker’s detriment? Will the Government, or, is it the case that the travel consumer will eventually have to pick up the tab? There is a question of morality which arises between those who have the knowledge and the power, and those that place their trust in them! I am concerned that the Government’s ‘precedent’ comment on travel insurance cover, does not reflect the ‘reality’ of ‘risk’ destinations, and ‘real’ offer of travel insurance cover. This requires urgent consideration”.

Frank Brehany concludes,

“I ask the following questions:

How many politicians would send their families to a ‘risk destination’?

How many civil servants would send their families to a ‘risk destination’?

How many members of the travel industry would send their families to a ‘risk destination’?

I suspect that in public, the answer would be in the affirmative. If they stated the same answer in private, then they are fools!

The time has come to move away from a bankrupt approach to travel advices. They do not reflect the reality on the ground, and they treat the travel consumer, and the owners and workers of businesses in foreign destinations, with disrespect. Honesty is now required in a difficult global situation. Surely that is the basis of creating a sustainable tourist environment? To promote that environment, there should now be implemented an open and clear approach on travel advices, clear and publicly available plans for the evacuation of British Citizens in the event of civil or political unrest, and urgent consideration of the issue of travel insurance advices and insurance cover and their exclusions. Government and Travel Companies must move away from the notion that sending holidaymakers into ‘risk’ areas is acceptable, and that it creates a sustainable policy. It is short term nonsense, or do we have to wait for some serious incident to take place, and the recriminations that will surely follow?”

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

For further information on this press release and any other associated matters please contact Frank Brehany on 08450179229


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