British tour operators cancel holidays as unrest tightens grip on Ethiopia

28 Oct

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)
by Hugh Morris, The Telegraph
 

Saga Holidays is among a number of major UK tour operators to cancel trips to Ethiopia as a wave of unrest spreads across the African country.

The Foreign Office (FCO) is advising against all travel to some regions in the east and all but essential travel to central parts that include places such as Lalibela, popular with tourists for its rock-cut churches.

Saga, Kuoni and Cox and Kings are among those to have cancelled tours for this year, offering refunds or alternatives to customers.

The Ethiopian government this month declared a six-month state of emergency and arrested more than 1,600 people as the FCO warned of clashes between protesters and security forces. Protests have been most fervent in the Amhara and Oromia regions.

In August, some 90 people were believed to have been killed after police used live bullets on protesters chanting anti-government slogans and waving dissident flags.

“Demonstrations have been taking place in the Oromia and Amhara regions in 2016 and further protests are likely,” the Foreign Office said.

“Tensions in Oromia have significantly risen since October 2 when up to 100 people died during a stampede at the Irreechaa religious festival.

“There has been widespread disruption to road travel across Ethiopia. Unauthorised and official roadblocks can appear with little or no warning.”

The country had recently been experiencing a boom in its tourism industry, thanks to its unique mix of history, wildlife and culture. Last year, the country was praised by the European Council on Tourism and Trade for its “excellent preservation of humanity landmarks”.

Beside the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, other draws include the Simien Mountains National Park, Lake Langano, and the Danakil Depression, one of the hottest places on earth.

A spokesperson for Kuoni, which offers a tour of the highlights of Northern Ethiopia, said it had stopped selling the trip and would be monitoring the situation.

A spokesperson for Saga, too, said all 2016 departures had been cancelled, adding: “The initial change to FCO advice was that some areas should be avoided. As a result tours were amended to ensure that our holidaymakers were nowhere near those areas. However… the advice changed again and advised against all but essential travel to certain regions of Ethiopia. As a result we took the decision to cancel all 2016 departures.”

Cox and Kings said it would only be able to resume its trips should the FCO advice change.

Responsible Travel, which hosts a number of tour operators on its website running trips in Ethiopia, said some of its clients are continuing to offer tours.

“Several of the holidays we market in Ethiopia are run by local tour operators, who will continue to offer and run the same trips as they always have done,” said marketing manager Sarah Faith.

“It is then up to each individual traveller to consider the FCO advice and to purchase insurance that will cover them given the FCO warnings.

“Our local operators in Ethiopia are extremely well-placed to understand the day-to-day situation on the ground in the country.”
 

%d bloggers like this: