Can I change my Sharm El Sheikh holiday to another destination?

Travel Q&A

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The Independent Travel

Q. I have a holiday in Sharm El Sheikh booked early next month. I tried to change to another destination due to the threats against tourists. The holiday company has refused. But now that all excursions have been cancelled as a result of the threats, are they breaking their contract, as the holiday is not as advertised, nor what our expectations were on booking?  Name withheld

A. Most British tourists to Egypt go to Sharm El Sheikh on the south-east edge of the Sinai Peninsula. However, they now face “lockdown” within a security cordon when they arrive, as a result of new Foreign Office advice. It follows an attack on a tourist bus in the resort of Taba on 16 February, in which three tourists and the driver were killed. The FCO believes an Islamist group based in the Sinai was responsible. The same group has apparently warned of further attacks on tourists. The new official advice is not to stray beyond the “perimeter barrier” around Sharm El Sheikh, which includes the airport.

Agreed, being confined within a security cordon is not everyone’s idea of a holiday. Excursions such as quad-biking and camel-riding in the desert are off-limits. But tour operators are very careful about what they promise. Typically, they will make sure that the holiday they offer is simply for the flight, the transfer and the hotel.

While holiday companies are happy to outline the excursions that are available, they make no guarantees about them. Indeed Thomson, the largest operator, says excursions may be cancelled when “there may be a risk to your comfort, health or safety”. That would certainly cover circumstances in Sharm El Sheikh right now.

Only in some very specific circumstances would holidaymakers have the right to a full refund or an alternative trip. If you have booked an archaeological or biblical trip taking in St Catherine’s monastery, for example, you could argue that the reason for the holiday has been undermined. But that argument won’t apply to the vast majority of visitors.

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