British tour operators have suspended holidays to Kenya up to and including tomorrow after the Foreign Office (FO) advised against all but essential travel to the strife-torn East African country.
The suspension announcement came after a meeting of the Federation of Tour Operators (FTO) and will affect hundreds of UK tourists due to fly out for sand-and-safari breaks on the Equator.
Those involved, which include people due to fly from Gatwick to Mombasa today on a First Choice Holidays break, will be offered alternative holidays where possible or a full refund.
The FTO said a decision about holidays after January 5 would be made in the next few days.
About 6,000 Britons – including about 3,000 on package holidays – are currently on trips in Kenya where more than 300 people have died in post-election riots.
The FTO said that it was hoped that tourists already in Kenya would be able to complete their holidays and return as scheduled.
Continuing violence following the disputed election result prompted the FO to change its advice from merely warning tourists to avoid certain areas to avoid travelling to the country altogether except for essential reasons.
The FTO said today: ‘Members of the FTO today announced that following advice from the Foreign Office, they have suspended holidays to Kenya for departures due up to and including Saturday January 5 due to the continuing unrest.
‘Customers due to fly in the coming days should contact their travel agent or tour operator. Alternative holidays for those customers will be offered where available or refunds.’
The statement went on: ‘Customers currently in Kenya are being advised of the FO advice and are expected to return home on their scheduled departure date.
‘The situation is being reviewed daily and any changes to departures planned after January 5 will be made over the coming days, with customers being notified.’
The suspension comes as the peak season for British tourism to Kenya approaches, with thousands of holidaymakers – mainly couples – fleeing the dark and cold of a British winter to visit some of the world’s top game parks and relax at luxury Indian Ocean beach resorts.
Refunds will cost UK tour operators many thousands of pounds while any lengthy suspension of UK package tours will have serious implications for the Kenyan economy.
The good news for Kenya and anyone still keen to visit was that British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways were continuing their normal UK-Kenya flights yesterday.
The First Choice flight cancelled tomorrow is FCA76 while a Thomson flight – TOM3227 – from Gatwick to Mombasa on Saturday has also been axed.
Peter McCarthy of Which? Legal Service said:’In a situation such as this, the consumer’s legal position is not clear cut. If your tour operator cancels and offers an alternative or a refund, your position is clear. But if you’re due to fly later on, and your tour operator doesn’t cancel, you may still be afraid to take the holiday. We would advise people in this position to seek legal advice on their individual case, as it is complex.’