Mideast tourism hit by collapse of British holiday firm

British tourists, flying with Thomas Cook, queue at the Enfidha International airport on September 23, 2019, on the outskirts of Sousse, south of Tunisia's capital Tunis. (AFP / FETHI BELAID)
Updated 24 September 2019

Mideast tourism hit by collapse of British holiday firm

  • Worldwide about 600,000 tourists have been stranded by the collapse

CAIRO: The collapse of the British travel company Thomas Cook rippled across the MENA region on Monday, with stranded holidaymakers, demands from hotels for payment, and fears for some countries’ tourism industries.

Thomas Cook’s Egyptian agent Blue Sky said 25,000 reservations in Egypt booked up to April 2020 had been canceled. Blue Sky currently has 1,600 Thomas Cook tourists in Hugharda on the Red Sea, its chairman Hossam El-Shaer said.

Worldwide about 600,000 tourists have been stranded by the collapse. The British government launched emergency plans to fly 150,000 of them home.

Tunisia has set up a crisis center to deal with the fallout, with hotels claiming to be owed $65 million by the company in unpaid bills from July and August. Tunisian officials said the debts would be settled by the UK. 

“We currently have about 4,500 British tourists in the hotels who will finish their stay as scheduled, and their repatriation will be paid for by London,” Tourism Minister Rene Trabelsi said.

Tourism chiefs in Turkey fear they could lose up to 700,000 visitors a year from the collapse, based on the number who had previously come to Turkey with Thomas Cook.

Hoteliers’ federation chairman Osman Ayik said there were currently about 45,000 tourists in Turkey from the UK and other European countries who had traveled with Thomas Cook.

“There are a large number of small businesses whose fates depend on Thomas Cook, especially in Mugla, Dalaman and Fethiye,” he said, and the company owed up to $35,000 to each of several small hotels.


Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani tenders his resignation

Updated 32 min 49 sec ago

Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani tenders his resignation

  • Rabbani’s departure may not affect Ashraf’s already weak government because Rabbani was disqualified from office by Parliament three years ago
  • Part of Rabbani’s differences with Ghani surfaced openly earlier this month when Rabbani’s office welcomed Pakistani efforts regarding the Afghan peace process

KABUL: Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani tendered his resignation on Wednesday following differences with President Ashraf Ghani, who Rabbani accused of sidelining him.
His departure may not affect Ashraf’s already weak government because Rabbani was disqualified from office by Parliament three years ago, and served as acting minister on the basis of an order by the president.
Rabbani is an ally of Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, who shares power with Ghani and is the president’s election rival.
Rabbani’s resignation comes weeks ahead of the possible formation of a new government if an election winner is announced.
“During my time, the working environment in the National Unity Government was not good from the start,” he wrote in his resignation letter.
“I witnessed parallel structures being created and have seen essential institutions — key pillars of the system — pushed to the side.”
The presidential palace had no immediate comment about Rabbani’s resignation or his allegations, which according to his supporters include being barred from attending conferences and events overseas that fall under his remit.
Part of Rabbani’s differences with Ghani surfaced openly earlier this month when Rabbani’s office welcomed Pakistani efforts regarding the Afghan peace process, which included a warm reception in Islamabad to a visiting Taliban delegation. The Afghan presidential palace openly opposed Pakistan’s warm welcome of the delegation.