The Government has warned all UK tourists to leave Tunisia immediately and strongly advised against all but essential travel to the country after intelligence that a terrorist attack is “highly likely”.
Tunisia is in the top 20 holiday hotspots for British travellers, with hundreds of thousands of tourists going there each year.
The Tunisian Government has hit out at the British Government, accusing it of playing into the terrorist’s hands.
Nabil Ammar, Tunisian ambassador to the UK, said: “This is what the terrorists want.
“By damaging the tourism, by having foreigners leaving the country, they damage the whole sector and put so many people out of work and on the streets.
“Hotels have to close and this is an important industry.”
Extra flights have been laid on to evacuate up to 3,000 British package holidaymakers and 300 independent travellers believed to be in Tunisia.
Tourists will begin to be flown out of the country this morning.
The Sousse beach massacre came just months after 22 people, mostly tourists, were killed at the National Bardo Museum outside Tunis in March.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said: “Since the attack in Sousse the intelligence and threat picture has developed considerably, leading us to the view that a further terrorist attack is highly likely.”
Why has the Government’s advice changed?
Until yesterday the Foreign Office had warned tourists of the “high threat from terrorism” in Tunisia, but stopped short of advising people not to go there. Hours after the attack in Sousse last month Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, in the face of criticism that advice should have been changed after the Bardo Museum attack in Tunis three months earlier, insisted the advice was “appropriate”.
But the Foreign Office has now said that in the two weeks since the Sousse attack the “intelligence and threat picture has developed considerably”, and they believe another terror attack is “highly likely”.
The Tunisian authorities put in place extra security measures following last month’s atrocity, but the Foreign Office said these would not provide “adequate protection” for British tourists.
What do you do if you have a holiday booked to Tunisia?
Travellers who have booked package holidays are advised to contact their tour operators as soon as possible to get a refund or change their holiday destination.
If you have booked your flights and accommodation separately you will have to contact the airline and hotel. If the airline cancels the flight in light of the latest advice from the Foreign Office you will be entitled to a refund. If not, you may be able to change your flight. Abta said cancellation fees could be charged if your insurance does not cover your bookings.
What if you are in Tunisia now?
If you are on a package deal you should contact your tour operator. Thomson and First Choice, Thomas Cook and Monarch have all confirmed they will fly their customers home as soon as possible.
If you have travelled to the country independently the Foreign Office has advised that you make your own arrangements to leave.
What happens if you have a holiday booked to Tunisia and want to go ahead anyway?
Many of the tour operators have cancelled their holidays to Tunisia for the rest of the summer season so you will not be able to travel there on a package deal.
If you are travelling independently you may be able to fly there on certain airlines but doing so, after the latest advice has been issued, will invalidate your insurance policy.