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Thomas Cook travel chaos: Thousand of tourists stranded in Egypt, Tunisia


Thomas Cook operator Blue Sky Group said on Monday that 25,000 reservations in Egypt booked up to April 2020 had been cancelled.

The cancellations came as Thomas Cook, the world’s oldest travel firm, collapsed, forcing governments and insurance companies to coordinate a huge operation to return home some 600,000 travellers.

Blue Sky currently has 1,600 Thomas Cook tourists in Egypt’s Hugharda resort on the Red Sea, its chairman Hossam El-Shaer said in a statement sent to Reuters.

The company was expecting 100,000 tourists to visit Egypt via Thomas Cook in 2020, the statement added.

Meanwhile, a number of foreign holiday makers were stranded in Tunisia after the collapse of the UK tour operator on Monday. The entire Monday morning saw around 4500 tourists stranded at Enfidha International airport, on the outskirts of Sousse south of the capital Tunis waiting for repatriation.

Some tourists expressed their displeasure after some of them missed their flights.

“We came to the airport, taking the chance, unluckily, they have got a plane on, but the plane is not big enough and there are going to be 34 people left behind, but nonetheless we should be able to get home today, hopefully,” one of the British tourist told AP reporter.

“Now, they can’t give us guarantees that tomorrow we’ll be on the plane. What they were doing was putting all the people on the plane in front of us so we were queuing that’s why we are so annoyed. So when we come tomorrow all the same thing could happen and we could be left again. So it’s not good,’‘ another tourist expressed his dissatisfaction.

The collapse of Thomas Cook, one of Britain’s oldest companies, has stranded more than half a million tourists around the world. It ran hotels, resorts and airlines for 19 million people a year in 16 countries.

Thomas Cook owes Tunisian hotels 60 million euros ($66 million)for stays in July and August, Tourism Minister Rene Trabelsi told Reuters on Monday, adding that 4,500 British Thomas Cook customers are still in the country.

“I will have a meeting on Tuesday with the British Embassy in Tunisia and the hotel owners to see how debt could be redeemed,” Trabelsi said.

Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said the government had a fleet of planes ready to bring home British customers over the next two weeks and they should not go to the airport until they had been informed they were due on a return flight.

The British regulator is also contacting hotels hosting Thomas Cook customers to tell them that they will be paid by the government, through an insurance scheme.

Some British tourists said a hotel in Tunisia briefly stopped them leaving on Saturday night, demanding they settle bills that Thomas Cook owed for their stay. The Tunisian government said it was a misunderstanding.

Major European tour operators only started to return to Tunisia last year after militants killed 39 tourists, mostly British, in an attack on a beach in Sousse and 21 people in the Bardo National Museum in the capital Tunis.

Tourism accounts for around 8% of Tunisia’s economy and employs 400,000 people. It had expected to receive a record 9 million tourists by the end of 2019 after recovering from the impact of the 2015 attacks.