Poll reveals extent holidaymakers rely on Foreign Office advice

A new poll has revealed the extent to which holidaymakers rely on Foreign Office guidance as campaigners in the trade continue to lobby for more accurate travel advice.

The study showed around three quarters (74%) of consumers would turn down a free holiday if the destination was deemed unsafe in advice given by the FCDO.

The poll, commissioned by tour operator Experience Travel Group (ETG) and The Specialist Travel Association (Aito), polled 4,000 UK adults over 18 between February 19 and 23, 2024.

In total 78% of those surveyed ranked safety and security as their top priority when booking a holiday and 61% said they depended on the accuracy of the FCDO’s advice to make their travel decisions.

The poll also showed that Brits were more likely to look at government travel advice when booking a holiday in Asia, with 73% saying they would do so. This dropped to 46% for booking a holiday in Europe.

The findings come as ETG continues to call for more accurate FCDO advice, with the survey results set to be used by the operator and other members of trade as part of their campaign for the reform of the government’s approach to travel guidance.

The group wants consistent, reliable advice across all countries and last month called for the FCDO to change its Sri Lanka travel advice because it was “overly harsh”, out of date and misleading, leaving consumers ill informed.

ETG has already written an open letter condemning the Sri Lanka advice, insisting that it “systematically undermines the travel industry” and highlighting the negative impact it is having on the country’s economy. The letter has been signed by prominent UK parliamentarians, Sri Lanka travel firms and celebrities, including former cricket star Kumar Sangakkara.

The campaign claims the FCDO advice, which warns of violent unrest and indiscriminate attacks, perpetuates an “unduly damaging narrative” which damages Sri Lanka’s economy. One in five Sri Lankans rely on an income generated by tourism.

ETG chief executive Sam Clark said: “The FCDO advice, as it stands, is stuck in the past. It is not reflective of the Sri Lanka of 2024, and it is concerning that government guidance that is relied on by so many to keep them safe could be so out of date and misleading.

“We understand the British public’s concerns regarding the advice for Sri Lanka. The wording is alarming, and you would, of course, assume the government advice is accurate – but it is not.”

His call for FCDO advice to keep up with current events in Sri Lanka is particularly pertinent given the survey also found 68% of respondents would cancel a holiday booked to the destination if they read the guidance as it is currently phrased.

Aito executive director Martyn Sumners said: “The FCDO guidance is clearly a leading factor in which countries are selected by holidaymakers.

“The advice has a huge impact on the individual traveller, the tourism industry, and the economy of the destination country. Ministers owe it to both travellers and international partners to make sure the guidance is fair, consistent, and accurate.”

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