19 July 2016

Interview with TUI Executive Board member Sebastian Ebel

After the events during the weekend in Turkey, TUI Executive Board member Sebastian Ebel, responsible for TUI Destination Services which entails the incoming agencies in the destinations – comments on the situation in the country.

What is the situation for TUI guests following the incidents in Turkey?

I visited Antalya to get an idea of the current situation. In the holiday regions the situation is calm and the guests are enjoying their holiday on the beach and in the hotels without any restrictions. Istanbul and Ankara are several hundred kilometres away from the beaches on the Turkish Riviera or the Aegean Sea. The hotel owners and the employees of the hotels in the tourist regions are doing everything they can, through their service, to convey a different image of Turkey and to make it possible for holidaymakers to have an enjoyable holiday.

Do you have direct contact with the guests in Turkey?

Yes, at all times, because TUI has its own tour guides and employees in all locations worldwide. They know the country and the people, speak the language and have close connections locally. Our tour guides were already in the hotels early on Saturday morning and were available as personal contacts for the guests. They answered questions and provided information about the situation. Our customers have consciously opted for organized travel, which means they put their holidays into our hands. This includes on-site support in the event of such unforeseen events, like that last weekend.

What do you expect for Turkey?

I believe in Turkey and in tourism in Turkey. It is a very beautiful and hospitable country and the quality standards in the hotels are high. The seaside resorts on the coast continue to be judged differently than the big cities by the security authorities. There are no warnings for the seaside and coastal resorts, where our holiday hotels are located and where our guests spend their holidays.

How do the security agencies assess the situation?

The Foreign Office and the British Foreign Ministry differentiate between the large cities and the holiday and resort towns. They have re-examined their travel advice at the weekend and published it on their websites. There is stricter travel advice for the cities of Istanbul and Ankara. Here, terrorist attacks have occurred in the past and this was also at the heart of the conflict between the various groups of the military on Friday evening. In addition, the authorities are generally advising visitors to avoid larger crowds of people.

What is TUI’s basic assessment with respect to the security situation?

The safety of our guests always has a very high priority. We generally orientate ourselves with our travel programmes on the security advice of the foreign ministries. We also recommend to our customers that they read the travel notes of the respective Ministry of Foreign Affairs on their websites. There, the guest will find important information about the country and also an evaluation of its safety. In the event of a travel warning, we would no longer offer that country and immediately fly our guests home from that holiday country. The competence of the Foreign Ministries is very high, because nowhere else does so much information from the national and international security agencies come together and can be evaluated. The greater threat of terrorist incidents, also affects our everyday life at home, that is not an exclusive issue for holidays. This was demonstrated by the dreadful attacks in Paris, Brussels, Orlando and Nice.

Has TUI responded fairly following the incidents in Turkey?

Yes, we have offered our guests the possibility of cancelling their travel, or choosing a different destination. However, only very few guests have taken advantage of this offer. More or less all holidaymakers embarked on their journey on Saturday and Sunday. Our tour guides in the holiday destinations in Turkey were present in the hotel and informed our customers. That also included the offer to organize their premature departure. Practically nobody took advantage of this offer. Of the current total of around 18,000 German holidaymakers in Turkey, only 30 wanted to terminate their holiday prematurely. This shows that the situation in the holiday resorts cannot be compared with the incidents and television pictures which we are seeing from Ankara and Istanbul.

Sebastian Ebel visited the hotels at the Turkish coastal resort of Antalya on Monday and Tuesday, where he talked to hoteliers, staff and guests.