Jaillan Yehia

Terrorism, Tragedy & Theresa: Why Nothing Can Keep Brits From Our Travels

Written by Jaillan Yehia

Post Categories: Opinion

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This week there was an earthquake near Gatwick Airport. Reports say that houses in the Crawley area shook with the 3.3 magnitude quake – the largest ever to strike the region, and one of four so far this year.

Until last year there had never been an earthquake recorded in this part of England.

Britain’s biggest package holiday hub was also at the centre of suspected terrorist activity in 2018 when an unidentified drone pilot closed the airspace for 2 days, grounding 1,000 flights and causing misery for 140,000 passengers. It seems that flying out of the UK is just as dangerous as flying into anywhere else.

Add in the political and economic uncertainty in England surrounding Brexit, the questions about whether it’s a good idea to buy currency now, whether pet passports will be honoured or our driving licenses valid in Europe and all in all it’s a pretty stressful time for Brits to travel.

But travel we do.

Every year many popular UK holiday destinations suffer natural disasters, acts of terrorism and political turmoil and this year the that turmoil has even come to our own shores, and departure points. But it hasn’t put us off.

The British appetite for holidays is on the up.  The percentage of people taking a foreign holiday this year increased to 60%, its highest level since 2011 according to ABTA’s Holiday Trends Report.

And although the chances of something happening while you’re on holiday might be relatively low, you must have a plan in place should something go wrong.

This suitcase came *everywhere* with me. I still miss it.

I have experienced lost luggage in Singapore, tsunamis in Malaysia, strikes in France, car breakdowns in Turkey, hurricanes in Tobago, flash floods in Texas, getting locked out in Canada and delayed flights all over the world.

I’ve also seen a family member need emergency surgery while overseas – so I know first-hand the importance of expecting the unexpected and being prepared for it, especially when you’re on the other side of the world. ‘Life’s what happens while you’re busy making plans’ as they say.

There seems to be an increase of weather extremes worldwide and if climate change is to blame then predicting if a holiday destination will suffer wildfires, flash flooding or severe storms will not be possible, so it makes sense to be extra alert.

In 2018 one of our favourite long haul tourist destinations, Mexico, suffered two earthquakes just weeks apart, while previously safe Nicaragua suddenly became a no go area, and stable country capitals such as Colombo, experienced terrorist incidents after political troubles reached boiling point.

Tuk Tuk in Colombo

Colombo, Sri Lanka is usually pretty safe

Even Europe itself now has its own extreme and dangerous weather more often – for example the recent wildfires in Greece and flash flooding in Spain.

Of course holidaymakers will tell you they just won’t travel somewhere associated with high risks. Silver Travel Advisor did a survey and 63% of respondents said they’d avoid going on holiday anywhere with terrorist attacks.

But my own time in travel PR tells me that such proclamations are short-lived, and as soon as the prices go down, bookings go back up. When a week’s package holiday in the sun is reduced to £200, it suddenly doesn’t seem so risky.

ABTA’s Holiday Trends Report 2018 underlined this by noting that Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia, three countries which have had especially difficult times in tourism because of terrorism acts, were all significantly up on their bookings this summer.

It’s also a sad fact that the very poorest countries in the world rely most heavily on tourism, but are at the mercy of more natural disasters and don’t have the budget to defend against the problems.

Egypt beach

The sea is a big draw for visitors to Egypt

I personally remember travelling to Malaysia weeks after the devastating tsunami, so I was sad to read that when a tsunami hit Sulawesi last September, Indonesia’s national disaster agency admitted their 22 water buoys, used to detect tsunamis, have not been functional since 2012.

But despite the FCO caution, Brits travelling to Indonesia have almost doubled in number since 2010 with 360,000 British nationals travelling to the Indonesian islands in 2018.

And sectors connected to the travel industry, such as insurance, recognise that there is still a major thirst for travel amongst us Brits, so they’re adapting their products to include crisis and disaster assistance.

For example, Insure4Retirement, a specialist Over 50s Home and Travel insurance provider offer a Crisis Response Service with their Ready2Go Gold travel policy.

Pangkor Laut bungalows on the water

Coastal areas of Indonesia and Malaysia are vulnerable to tsunamis

The simplest but most effective benefit of this kind of cover is a dedicated phone number you can call for immediate assistance if disaster strikes while you’re abroad.

It sounds deceptively straightforward but imagine being able to call crisis response consultants including former military, law enforcement and intelligence agency personnel, who are strategically positioned around the world. They provide help during a serious crisis just like any other service you’d be happy to pay for to get you out of a sticky situation. The idea though, is to go far beyond what can be offered by the average call centre operator.

So, whether it’s drones, earthquakes, or leaving the EU, in Brits’ eyes the motto is: ‘Keep Calm and Carry on Travelling.

keep calm



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