Foreign office 'should stop travel to Egypt'

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The Independent Travel

The Foreign Office should change its travel advice to stop people going to Egypt, a senior Conservative MP said today.

Patrick Mercer said travel companies should also stop offering holidays to resorts in the crisis-stricken country.

Some tour operators have been advertising cut-price deals to the country.

Mr Mercer told ITV Daybreak: "If we pretend that things are going to improve in Egypt, we're wrong.

"We must get our people out. Other nations have done that already. If we don't then - excuse the pun - our nationals become a hostage to fortune, literally.

"Let's implement the contingency plan which I know exists. Let's get people out and let's stop further people going there.

"Why holidays in Sharm el Sheikh are still being advertised in different tourist agency windows I don't know."

The Foreign Office is advising against all but essential travel to Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor and Suez and recommends that British nationals without a pressing need to be in Cairo, Alexandria or Suez leave by commercial means where it is safe to do so.

Downing Street has said the travel advice remained under review in a fast-moving situation.

Mr Mercer said: "Let's change the Foreign Office advice. Let's stop making the problem worse. Let's try to improve it.

"Let's make sure we have plans in place to make sure our nationals are not there in the first place and really to expect the worst, that's all we can do.

"If we expect the worst we can only be pleasantly surprised."

A spokeswoman for Thomson and First Choice Holidays said: "The majority of our customers are in Sharm el Sheikh, which is over eight hours away from Cairo and Alexandria where the majority of the troubles are.

"Sharm el Sheikh kind of acts as its own country because of it being on the Sinai Peninsula and the agreement the Egyptians have with the Israelis. It is very much kept as a separate entity in itself.

"Therefore, we feel that travel to Sharm el Sheikh at the moment is perfectly safe. We have had reports from our resort staff on the ground saying that it is very much business as usual."

The tourist resorts of Hurghada, Taba, and Marsa Alam are also operating as business as usual, she confirmed.

She said day trips to Cairo and Alexandria were cancelled.

She added: "We do also operate holidays to Luxor and Aswan. We have decided to bring people out of these areas, mainly due to the proximity of Cairo and the Suez Canal.

"We have made that decision but Sharm el Sheikh is very much business as usual."

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "The safety of British nationals is paramount. The situation in Sharm el Sheikh remains calm. We have an honorary consul and a team of consular staff in Sharm el Sheikh who are monitoring the situation. Clearly, any change in the situation will be reflected in our travel advice and we will act accordingly.

"Obviously in Cairo and the areas where the situation is more tense, we have advised against all but essential travel and have advised that those who are in these areas without a pressing need to stay, where it is safe to do so, should leave by commercial means."

A spokesman for Thomas Cook said: "We continue to monitor the situation in Egypt and we are in close contact with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

"Our experienced teams on the ground assure us that no tourist areas at the Red Sea have been affected in any way by the recent demonstrations.

"They are fully operational and holidaymakers are continuing to enjoy the popular resorts of Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada."

He added that Thomas Cook had cancelled excursions from the Red Sea resorts to Cairo up to and including tomorrow.

It has also cancelled outbound flights to Luxor due to leave tomorrow from Birmingham, Gatwick and Manchester.

Return flights tomorrow from Luxor to the UK will operate as planned, he said.

Thomas Cook said it would continue to review the situation for travel to Luxor. The next planned departures are due on Wednesday February 9.

Flights to Sharm el Sheikh continue to operate as normal.