Report Highlights Availability Of Travel Advice and Need For Security Advisors At Board Level As On-going Issues
The coroner who heard the inquests earlier this year into the deaths of 30 Britons killed in a terrorist attack in Tunisia has published his recommendations for the travel industry to learn from the tragic incident.
Chief among Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith’s concerns was a need for Tour Operators to ensure the logos and links to the Foreign Office’s travel advice are prominently displayed for customers looking to book holidays. During the Inquests TUI was criticised by lawyers for the families of those killed for not giving enough information about the threat of terrorist activity in Tunisia despite previous incidents. In his summary conclusions following the Inquests, the coroner found the logo was not prominently displayed in the Thomson brochure.
He also noted that TUI made no alterations to its website after the Foreign Office made a number of amendments and updates to its travel advice after the terrorist attack at the Bardo Museum in March 2015. The coroner read out a crib sheet prepared by TUI to answer questions from customers who were concerned about the Bardo attack and who were worried about their personal safety.
The coroner noted that the crib sheet did not give any details of the attack but only referred to the “incident”, it did not mention the word “terrorism” or “risk of terrorism” and although it referred to the Foreign Office advice, it did not give customers any guidance as to where the advice could be found.
The latest report by Judge Loraine-Smith, published after the seven week inquests and further submissions from the families of the deceased, TUI and the Foreign Secretary concludes that although TUI has taken steps to improve, the Judge remains "concerned that other companies which sell holidays, or sell flights and hotel accommodation separately, may not have taken such steps, as a result of which members of the public receive insufficient information about the risks of terrorist attacks in destination countries".
Judge Loraine-Smith also confirmed that he had heard evidence that TUI did not have security advisors at board level before the attack. While TUI has now remedied this with the appointment of a security advisor at Board level he is "concerned that if other companies do not have similar security advisors at board level then hotels which they use will not be adequately protected."
Law firm Irwin Mitchell is representing the families of 22 victims who died as well as many others who were injured during the attack at the Imperial Marhaba Hotel, Sousse, in June 2015.
Kylie Hutchison, a specialist international personal injury lawyer at Irwin Mitchell and one of the team of lawyers at the firm representing those affected, said:
Expert Opinion“Our clients were very grateful to the coroner for his careful and sensitive handling of the inquest proceedings. They felt that the investigation was fair and thorough and it is now crucial that the whole travel industry learns from what happened in Sousse to reduce the risk of similar catastrophic incidents in future.
“We also welcome the coroner’s latest report which identifies two main areas of concern: the concern that travel companies still may not have security advisors on their Boards and that they simply rely on local providers to ensure hotels are safe for British tourists; and the concern that some tour operators are still not displaying the logos and links to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice when customers book holidays.” Kylie Hutchison - Senior Associate Solicitor
Clive Garner, Head of International Personal Injury at Irwin Mitchell, added:
Expert Opinion “These were both areas that were flagged during the Inquest in respect of two of the UK’s largest travel companies, Thomson and First Choice, which are both within the TUI group of companies. While we are very glad TUI has now apparently addressed these concerns, those changes are clearly too late for our clients who lost their loved ones in Sousse and for the many seriously injured survivors who we represent.
“We, and our clients, now consider that that is of vital importance that these lessons are learned by all tour operators and that these changes are implemented where needed throughout the travel industry without any further delay.” Clive Garner - Partner