Agents have a responsibility to direct customers to FCO advice, says Nikki White, Abta’s head of destination sustainability

Since the beach attack in Sousse in 2015 there has been much greater public awareness of the global and indiscriminate nature of attacks.

Customers know they can happen anywhere. This is where the personal service that our industry is known for comes into play, and where we can make a real difference.

People need to be signposted to travel advice before they book. The Foreign Office (FCO) website is the best source of information and links to this advice should be available on websites, visible in brochures and part of the conversations agents have with customers.

Directing customers to this advice may raise questions and travel providers must give their staff the information they need to answer them. Customers must make their own decisions whether or not to go to a destination. Staff may be asked about how safe a destination is, but it is impossible to say anywhere is safe. Unfortunately, even here in the UK there is a heightened risk of terrorism.

To make an informed decision, holidaymakers should look at travel advice when researching their holiday destination.

Be ‘Travel Aware’

Earlier this month, judge Loraine-Smith published a Prevention of Future Deaths report following the inquest into the deaths of 30 British holidaymakers in Sousse. The report points out that travel companies that sell holidays, or flights and hotel accommodation separately, should display logos and links to the government’s Travel Aware programme, which provides detailed travel advice for every country on the FCO website. Not doing so, according to the report, may mean that members of the public receive insufficient information about the risks of terrorist attacks in destinations.

Inform customers

Since the terrible event in Sousse, Abta has been taking steps to ensure our members’ links to travel advice are prominently displayed and that customers are directed to them.

Agents can reassure customers that this is British government advice and it remains the best and most comprehensive source of information. 
As well as safety and security information, the FCO website contains important information about health, local laws and visa requirements.

Abta has also undertaken a number of initiatives with members to minimise the impact of terrorism. We are working with the National Counter Terrorism Security Office to provide our members with industry training and customer advice and support, both here and overseas. This includes helping members understand the threat, advising what they should do if involved in a terrorist incident, and enabling people to recognise and report suspicious activity.

We have also promoted the police’s Run, Hide, Tell advice.

This work is important. Better-informed customers are confident travellers, and maintaining this confidence is critical to our industry. Abta will be issuing further guidance and training for frontline staff in the coming months.