Approximately four million people in the UK holiday over the festive period. Following a year that has seen the events of Tunisia, Egypt and most recently Paris, it is clear holidaymakers need help to assess risk when travelling over Christmas. Here Frank Brehany, consumer director of HolidayTravelWatch, shares his 10 point plan for safer holiday travel.
Use numerous sources in your research
Don’t rely on one hard copy brochure or one online website for information on your intended destination. Read the local news to find out about the current state of affairs in that country. Use Google searches, for example ‘Egypt English Language Newspapers’ ‘Turkey English Radio Stations’ to access news in the area. Reviews or other sources not in English can be copied and pasted into Google Translate for a reasonable translation. See what they say about:
*Security in the country, do they advise on any risks?
*Security in your resort and the nearby hotels
* If you are travelling with children and intend to use kids clubs, what do they say about staffing, qualifications and the security of these clubs?
* Will you be able to access resort representation in any 24 hour period?
Seek security advice
Do your research and collate security information from as many sources as possible. For example, currently there are varying levels of advice for travellers going to Spain. Whilst the FCO offers limited advice on safety and security the US State department website offers more detail for travellers.
* Check what news channels have to say about life in the country you intend to visit. Don’t rely on UK channels, continuing with Spain as an example, AlJazeera provides good coverage on key political and security issues in Spain.
* Visit various Travel review websites – not just Tripadvisor. Also visit other UK sites or those in Europe Zoover is a good source to read what other Nationalities have to say.
* Ask yourself: What is the level of any terrorist and crime threat? What is the record on Human Rights? How is tourism protected in the area?
* Be aware of customs in terms of reporting crime. In Spain you can do this at your hotel reception, you will be given a receipt and you then have to attend the local police station to receive an official stamp to confirm the crime.
Take a tour on Google Maps
As you gather information on your resort or destination use Google Maps and ‘go for a walk’ around the hotel/resort you would like to go to and check:
* Does your intended hotel have good surroundings and security?
* What are the streets around the hotel like; are there potential escape routes?
* Can you see police patrols?
* What do the streets look like as you walk to the beach; are there any signs of neglect, graffiti or protest?
Create a score
Score your destination in terms of risk against terrorism, crime, Human Rights and Tourist Protection to help you gain a comprehensive perspective of risk:
Apply the following score to each heading (remember this is your personal view or instinct):
0 = No Risk
1 = Very Low Risk
2 = Low Risk
3 = Moderate Risk
4 = High Risk
5 = Very High Risk
In applying this score you should carefully analyse all aspects, what for example, goes against travel to this destination. Measure this against the positive measures or steps taken to protect security you have discovered? Use the score card as your first base; don’t make an immediate decision about your intended travel unless of course the risk is evidently high.
Picture credit: iStock
Deliver your concerns
If you are concerned about the country or resort in question then deliver your concerns to the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Include copies of your evidence and ask them to comment. Do the same with your intended travel provider and consider their response. Did they simply refer you to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth office advisors or did they provide you with specific responses and reassure your concerns? Once you have this information
Examine your initial scores
Adjust the scores according to the response you have received
If you have concerns, speak with your intended travel insurer and ask them if they will cover you. Provide them with your evidence and if they agree get that confirmation in writing
Safety on holiday
Keep up to date on any changes using these steps every week and in the days before you go on holiday. Have you discovered anything that gives you concern? How does it affect your score-card of risk? If you are worried, gather your evidence and present it to the UK Foreign Office, your Travel Provider and your insurance provider to ensure your cover continues. Ask them for written comment and confirmation of any issues. If risk is evident and increasing, then go to visit www.holidaytravelwatch.com for further guidance on your rights under the Package Travel Regulations.
Take crucial contact numbers
Before you travel, ensure that you have placed the following telephone numbers into your phone:
The European Emergency Services Number 112
If you’re outside the EU, then find and enter the number for the local police station to your hotel
The contact numbers for the UK Embassy or Consulate of the Country you intend to visit
The UK Foreign Office telephone number
Make sure that family left behind in the UK have those contact numbers and think about having several methods of contact with family apart from text or email. Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter and all good ways you can keep I touch abroad, keep those routes of contact open.
Remain vigilant once you arrive
Practice the same ‘vigilance’ the UK Foreign Office claims should be practiced here in the UK. This should include: taking note of your surroundings, in your complex, note escape routes, security routines and the location of the security office.
In an emergency situation
First and foremost in the case of an emergency, follow the instructions of the Authorities.
Leave personal possessions behind, take the exit route you think will deliver you to safety
Where it is safe to do so, use your camera phone to record evidence this could be vital
Maintain yourself at a safe location. Stay away from windows and close curtains if possible. Barricade yourself into your room but respond to instructions or alarms
Keep your lines of communication open
When safe to do so, express to your travel company what you want to do next
Communicate with the UK Foreign Office and or Embassy and explain what has happened to you and where you are. They can offer you instructions to follow
Above anything else if you see something suspicious
If you see something suspicious report it to the Police and the UK Foreign Office/Embassy at the same time as well as your tour operator. NEVER challenge an individual on your own and certainly not without the assistance of the local police or security!