/ Travel & Leisure

We need honest information about our holidays

Picture of dream holiday against stormy sky

When we’re booking our ‘dream’ holiday we can be unaware if travel companies go easy on the reality. So should they be doing more to tell us about how problems in different countries might affect our travel plans?

A journalist from a national newspaper rang me up the other day to ask my opinion on the Tunisia situation. ‘Wasn’t it outrageous’, he wanted to know, that some holiday companies were still selling holidays to Tunisia?

Is it outrageous, given the unrest in the country at the moment? Yes, of course it is if those holidays are being sold even though the companies know they will never be able to honour them.

As the advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is against all but essential travel to Tunisia, those making bookings for Tunisia will have their holidays cancelled or be offered a different destination until that advice changes. Even if they could get a flight out (and many airlines are still flying there), any standard travel insurance would almost certainly be null and void.

Dream holiday versus reality

Holiday companies sell dreams. They don’t want any hint or suggestion that the holiday may be ‘damaged’ in some way. The companies who offer packages also buy hotel rooms many months in advance and will lose out considerably if the rooms go empty. Of course they’ll have carried out risk assessments and the holiday company will bear responsibility if the holiday does not turn out as advertised.

But one could certainly argue that links to the Know Before You Go campaign could be made far more prominent at the booking stage so that people are fully informed about the country they’ve booked to travel to.

Tunisia aside, there are plenty of other destinations where risks may occur. The news is full of political struggles, natural disasters and social problems the world over. The FCO told me that according to their research only 38% of people say that they research a destination before they travel.

If this is true, then people either blindly book based on brochure pictures and price alone, or they must be relying on the companies they booked with to tell them about these issues. If it is the latter, then I am worried, and links to real destination advice at the time of booking need to be made much more prominent.


I find the more specialist providers provide plenty of information ( or links to sites) on the destinations.

However I do think the consumer has some responsibility to research their holiday destination themselves. What are the travel companies supposed to do – provide pages of information and all the possible drawbacks of each location, its climate, political & economic situation, crime levels, health hazards……. ?

Yes, OK, Tunisia has been in the news, but many people would be unaware, for instance, about troubles in say Vietnam, Cambodia, or Borneo. They are destinations that don’t attract global news, or at least news in this contry. Not that I know of any problems in the aforementioned countries. However, if I was to book a holiday in a country that wasn’t news headlines and I found out later that the Tour Company DID know about those problems before I booked and took my money, I would not be heading to my insurance company first shot. No sir, the first port of call should be Trading Standards. And then a solicitor – Which? has some good ones – to sue the company for breach of contract. They entered into a contract that they knew would be either difficult, dangerous or impossible to execute for their customer – me!
My insuraunce company also has good solicitors and the power of complaint is very powerful indeed. Especially if you also go, or threaten to go, to the National newspapers.
It’s ethically and morally wrong, a brech of contract in the waiting and any Tour Company found guilty of this sort of scull-duggery would be hauled over the coals.
However, we should all shoulder a bit of responsibility in that we should do at least some research into the country that we wish to visit. We get inocculated, so why not get informed as well?

Mike says:
30 January 2011

I was booked on a holiday in Tunisia in January and was one of the thousands evacuated early by Thomas Cook.
The help given by Thomas Cook and the rebate on accomodation costs not used are derisory to say the least. How one can contact the thousands involved I do not know, but I think that TC must be working on the basis of ‘divided they fall’.
This is likely to be the subject of ongoing problems over the next few months.

On a recent (Sept/Oct) holiday with Cox & Kings in Uzbekistan at least 22 out of our party of 26 were ill. Most were put on antibiotics and some on a drip, obviously this spoilt the holiday for all. When your first question in the morning is about who is still standing as opposed to where are we going it is not good!
Several of us have contacted C & K who have been less than helpful. They claim this level of illness is unusual – but this is not what our guide told us. To the best of my knowledge we were all scrupulous in our hygiene as most were experienced travellers with many similar trips behind them. Bottled water for teeth cleaning, gel for hands at all times etc etc. I would have expected some evidence of investigation from C & K but nothing was forthcoming.
I am left feeling very sorry for future travellers on this holiday and could only advise people not to travel there with C & K.