The Turkish authorities have moved to protect tourists stranded in the country following the collapse of British tour operator Thomas Cook. Hotels in Turkey have been ordered not to levy extra charges on the tourists, nor to evict them until they are ready and able to leave for a flight back to the UK.
The Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism made the announcement on Monday when the travel firm collapsed and cancelled all flights. Any hotels which do not comply with this government order face investigation and possible prosecution, explained Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Ersoy. The most important priority, he said, is to get the British tourists – more than 21,000 people – back home safely.
Ersoy also said that, at the time of speaking, it was unclear whether Thomas Cook (Germany) had also collapsed. If so, then the number of stranded tourists could be as high as 40,000, or even 80,000 if those from the Nordic countries and Russia are included.
The situation remains unclear due to the fact that each country has its own legislation on the repatriation of nationals from overseas, the minister pointed out. He added his hopes that the difficult situation for the tourists will be limited to no more than those from Britain, about whom he had nothing but praise. British support for Turkey as a tourist destination, he said, was demonstrated by the fact that the number of visitors from the UK did not fall, even during the tourism crisis following the attempted coup in 2016.
Following the collapse of the British firm, long popular for its travel packages to multiple destinations worldwide, the cost of extra nights in holiday accommodation as well as flights back to the UK with other airlines, will be covered by the company’s Air Travel Organisers’ Licence (ATOL) issued by the Civil Aviation Authority to tour operators since 1973. ATOL is a UK financial protection scheme which covers most air package holidays sold by travel businesses that are based in Britain. Flights and holidays which have already been cancelled by Thomas Cook, however, are estimated to affect around 150,000 people.