Thomas Cook has cancelled its holiday bookings to Sharm el-Sheikh following ISIS attack fears in the area.
The British travel company has scrapped all flight and hotel packages for the winter season onwards, with alternative trips or refunds offered for some 200 pre-booked customers.
The decision comes after continued warnings against travel to the area by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, with March’s terror attack alert tipping the balance.
Off limits: Thomas Cook has cancelled its holiday bookings to Sharm el-Sheikh following ISIS attack fears in the area
In a statement on the Thomas Cook website the UK and Ireland managing director Chris Mottershead writes: ‘The decision ultimately rests with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office which issues expert security advice for UK travellers.
‘Since October 2015 it has advised against flying to Sharm el-Sheikh airport and we have had no indication that this is likely to change in the near future.’
‘Therefore, we have sadly decided we won’t be able to offer any trips from the UK to Sharm.’
The five flights per week which had been scheduled for the winter have now been cancelled.
Instead, the travel company is increasing its availability in the nearby resort of Hurghada and it is also introducing a new destination on the Red Sea Riviera – Marsa Alam.
Thomas Cook’s decision to limit travel to Sharm el-Sheikh was likely forced by heightened tension in the area.
In March Israel warned citizens to immediately leave Egypt’s Red Sea resorts and cancel all future travel plans over fears of an ISIS attack.
The country’s counter-terrorism bureau said at the time that there was a ‘serious and current threat’ of a terror attack targeting the region.
The Red Sea region used to be popular with British holidaymakers seeking winter sun but numbers have dropped in recent years due to ongoing trouble in the area. Tourism levels are now around a third of what they once were
The region used to be popular with British holidaymakers seeking winter sun but numbers have dropped in recent years due to ongoing trouble in the area. Tourism levels are now around a third of what they once were.
In June 2015, a massacre of tourists at a Luxor temple was narrowly averted when assailants armed with assault rifles and explosives bungled the attack and were intercepted by police.
But in October that year, Islamic State group jihadists, who are waging an insurgency in the eastern Sinai Peninsula, struck again. They bombed a Russian airliner carrying holidaymakers home from Sharm el-Sheikh.
Russia suspended flights to Egypt and Britain cut air links with Sharm el-Sheikh.
Thomas Cook also suspended flights at the time. Now it has cut travel to the destination due to mounting pressure.
Other travel companies, including TUI, are still offering winter holidays to Sharm el-Sheikh but Thomas Cook’s decision could trigger a domino effect.
Grounded: The British travel company has scrapped all flight and hotel packages for the winter season onwards, with alternative trips or refunds offered for some 200 pre-booked customers
Mottershead concluded: ‘As you can imagine, we plan our summer programme many months in advance. We need to make decisions about how many rooms we want and work closely with the hoteliers to ensure our customers have the best time and the highest quality experience.
‘Having left it as long as possible, we have decided that even if the advice were to change in the next few months, we wouldn’t be able to offer a full programme to the resort next summer.
‘[Sharm el-Sheikh] is a fantastic destination and as soon as the advice changes and we can build it into our holiday programme, we look forward to flying customers from the UK to Sharm again so they can enjoy all the resort has to offer.’
Last month Egypt’s tourism minister, Mohamed Yehia Rashed, insisted the country’s popular Red Sea resorts and Ancient Egyptian sites are a safe choice for travelers.
‘We are saying that the tourism sector is safe, the airports are secure, the hotels are secure,’ he said, adding that there have not been security breaches at tourist sites.
He said Germany represents the largest visitor market, particularly to Red Sea diving spots around Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh, followed by travelers from Saudi Arabia.