The latest news from the Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel in Hurghada, Egypt, causes all to reflect on the nature of holidays and the trust we place in brands delivering a safe and viable product.
The last hours of John and Susan Cooper have been pulled into sharp focus with the authorities citing heart and respiratory failure as the apparent cause of their deaths and that there were “no criminal suspicions”.
On Friday (24/8/18), the Tour Operator, Thomas Cook, advised that they were evacuating guests as a ‘precautionary measure’ and indicated that there were ‘reports’ of a “raised level of illness among guests”.
The Tour Operator considered that the cause of the deaths was ‘unclear’ and sought to scotch the press speculation that the cause of the Cooper’s deaths was as a result of Carbon Monoxide, stating that they “have no evidence to support this”.
A spokesperson for the Steigenberger brand however claimed that there was not an unusual level of illness amongst the large number of guests staying at the hotel.
For Kelly Omerod, the couple’s daughter, she believes the circumstances of her parent’s death’s “doesn't add up” and that their death’s were “not due to natural causes”.
In the press, holidaymakers have been interviewed and have reported that they have apparently suffered illness at the hotel.
A review of holidaymakers experiences on Trip Advisor reveals a very high number of reviews, with some 10% offering an ‘average’, ‘poor’ or ‘terrible’ review. Those reviews reveal a mixture of complaints and photographs, highlighting what those holidaymakers allege as failures in quality. Some holidaymakers complain of being sick, some allegedly quite serious. The hotel management respond to those review complaints and where sickness is alleged, the response sometimes does not address the issue of sickness or in one case it highlights how the holidaymaker took a meal in one of the restaurants several days later, apparently enjoying the experience.
To the objective observer, all of this represents a confusing message, likely to leave Consumers unsure on how to deal with the issues raised.
In the first instance, the authorities, hotelier and tour operator need to state or provide unequivocally:
- Whether there is any form of heating/water heating, within the rooms, that have a gas supply or a carbonaceous fuel supply?
- When a reference is made to a ‘raised’ level of illness resulting in evacuation, what percentage of holidaymakers does this refer to?
- What was audited in early July 2018; who carried out the audit?
- Publication of the full audit, so as to demonstrate that all due care had been taken, thereby building confidence in this product.
These simple questions and actions are necessary to ensure that the public perception of Egypt as a destination, is secured against what has been a very difficult few years for the Egyptian Tourism economy.
By coincidence, several days before this tragic news broke, Frank Brehany had been approached by one holidaymaker, about another destination and concerns of an outbreak of illness. Frank’s exploration of the current state of the quality of holidays, revealed across a number of destinations, that there were issues relating to illness in hotels. Frank published an article on his findings, offering advice to holidaymakers against the backdrop of a government’s savage action on holiday claims, whilst offering guidance to intending holidaymakers and their new rights under the latest Package Travel Regulations.
Frank Brehany, an Independent Travel Consumer Expert states:
“Shock is often an overused expression, but in this case it more than adequately represents the sense of feeling for the Cooper family in what should have been a very happy time for them; I extend my deepest sympathies to the Cooper family, friends and work colleagues”.
“Over 12 months ago, I departed from the Travel Consumer Organisation, HolidayTravelWatch, for pastures new, but leaving behind what I hoped was a strengthened Consumer position and a much wiser Travel Industry. There are many questions arising from the deaths of this couple along with inconsistency in message and these issues can I believe be simply resolved by answering 4 very simple questions”
“For Consumers, this will no doubt be a very concerning time, whether you are on holiday in the resort or intending to go. My advice is to ask the difficult questions of the tour operator and hotelier and in the event that you are not satisfied with how matters are responded to, to take the action I have defined for other destinations, set out in the linked article in this press release. We simply cannot allow the travel product to return to the days of unanswered questions, nor for Egypt to suffer any more than it already has!”