Letter: Mixed welcome, but tourists return

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The Independent Online
Sir: I refer to Simon Calder's open letter to the head of the English Tourist Board ('Dear Adele Biss', 5 August). The previous evening I had the misfortune to disembark at Gatwick from an Air Iberia flight out of Santiago.

Santiago has a modern clean provincial airport. All signs are in Spanish, English and Galician. All announcements are made (clearly and distinctly) in those tongues.

It was fortunate that two weeks earlier we had flown out of Gatwick and knew, therefore, that the gate allocated to Air Iberia is in the satellite to the main terminal. The English signs for baggage-reclaim peter out on the way to the shuttle, the doors of which open on both sides; the three Spanish travellers who had followed us did not understand the warning in English (recorded, I suspect, using church acoustic), stumbled through, and found themselves on the departure platform as the doors closed.

There is nothing to indicate that a shuttle has to be taken to the main terminal, let alone to baggage reclaim. There is nothing indicating this is a shuttle. Not even in English.

When we were disgorged into passport control (all signs in English) there were signs (in English) explaining that one had to view the television screens to discover which was the appropriate baggage reclaim.

At what point I saw the sign, in English, welcoming passengers to Great Britain, I do not know. Had I been a 'foreign' visitor with the necessary command of English and previous knowledge of Gatwick, I may have been impressed. Had I been a foreign visitor lacking those attributes, I wonder what my feelings would have been?




5 August