Travel agents are slammed as ‘irresponsible’ and ‘dangerous’ for #KeepCalmTravelOn campaign that encourages people to keep going on holiday despite the coronavirus outbreak
- The travel industry launched the campaign to ‘spread advice and travel deals’
- But the move has been branded ‘irresponsible’ due to the escalating global crisis
- 115 countries or territories have reported at least one person to have COVID-19
- Thousands of Britons have been trapped in hotels or on cruise ships as a result
- One user said the campaign took advantage of ‘iffy Government travel advice’
- The Foreign Office says to only avoid China, South Korea and mostly Italy
A #KeepCalmTravelOn campaign promoted by travel agents amid the coronavirus outbreak has been met with furious backlash.
As flight and package holiday sales plummet, the travel industry launched the hashtag to ‘spread advice and travel deals’ to encourage people to keep going on holiday despite the epidemic.
But the move has been branded ‘irresponsible’ and ‘dangerous’ due to the escalating global coronavirus crisis.
New countries are reporting their first cases every day, with 115 territories having at least one person ill with COVID-19 so far.
Thousands of Britons have found themselves stranded in hotels abroad and even on disease-ridden cruise ships during the ongoing outbreak after fellow travellers test positive.
And an unprecedented surge in UK cases have been largely linked to half term trips to Italy, where a serious coronavirus epidemic is raging on.
Following the collapse of regional airline Flybe, the travel industry’s campaign has been viewed as an attempt to push sales rather than protect people’s health.
England’s chief doctor Professor Chris Whitty has told Brits to ‘think’ about whether it was wise for them to travel abroad especially to countries with health services weaker than the NHS.
Social media users have hit back at the controversial travel campaign. Andy Boxall wrote: ‘#KeepCalmTravelOn is at best misjudged’
Following the collapse of regional airline Flybe, the travel industry’s campaign has been viewed as an attempt to push sales (pictured)
One user said the campaign took advantage of ‘iffy’ government travel advice – The Foreign Office says only to avoid certain spots in China and South Korea, while limiting travel to Italy to only essential.
A blanket ban on travel is not regarded as necessary in the UK at this time, but has been implemented elsewhere including New York City.
Hundreds of flights between the UK and Italy have been cancelled due to the coronavirus, leaving some passengers stranded.
British Airways suspended all flights to and from Italy on Tuesday, while Ryanair said no flights will serve the country from Saturday. EasyJet has cancelled dozens of its Italian flights.
British Airways refused refund requests to passengers booked on flights to Italian airports outside the north of the country until the Foreign and Commonwealth Office updated its travel advice on Monday night.
That means some passengers may have reluctantly travelled to Italy to avoid losing money and now face a struggle to get home.
Jess Nicholls, 43, an enterprise change consultant, said today she felt ‘dumped’ by BA after it notified her by email that her flight from Rome to London would be cancelled.
Ms Nicholls said: ‘Their website was down, their call centres are overloaded and we got an email after midnight saying our flight was cancelled. It’s putting more passengers in danger.’
Uber driver Francesco Stabile told MailOnline at Stansted today that he had ‘no idea’ of the latest travel restrictions after visiting his girlfriend in Italy including a Government diktat to self isolate immediately.
Mr Stabile 38, who has lived in Letchwort, Herts, for the past 16 years, said he was keen to get back to work, adding: ‘I am an Uber driver. I go to Italy every two weeks to visit my girlfriend. I have received information from the Foreign Office but I don’t know anything about self-isolating.’
The #KeepCalmTravelOn campaign is being spearheaded by a consortia of travel agents – Advantage Travel Partnership, Global Travel Group, Travel Gossip and CLIA.
Various independent travel operators have shown their support by tweeting the hashtag and memes adorning glorious pictures of sandy beaches.
A press release for the campaign said the move was to ‘encourage leisure and business travellers to continue exploring our amazing world… during this unprecedented time where COVID-19 is present.’
An Instagram account, called KeepTheWorldTravelling, will post advice and travel deals ‘to demonstrate that the public can still travel to the majority of destinations by following FCO advice’.
But social media users have hit back at the controversial move. Andy Boxall wrote: ‘#KeepCalmTravelOn is at best misjudged, or at worst irresponsible corporate marketing that champions iffy Foreign advice…’
Gissue Simonarson said: ‘This hashtag not only a craven ploy by the travel industry, it’s also seriously dangerous advise in the mids of a global pandemic that we still don’t understand and is shutting down countries. Sure don’t panic, but don’t be giving dangerous advise either [sic].’
Another user questioned: ‘Anyone else findings this a ridiculous marketing/PR ploy by the industry to keep bookings? Most likely at the loss of travellers when restrictions increase later this year.’
Widespread travel bans are yet to be implemented by the British Government, a move which has been supported by independent experts.
But when countries see clusters of cases suddenly erupt into epidemics involving hundreds of people within a matter of days, travellers on their holidays have become trapped and even put in lockdown in hotels.
Tenerife saw hundreds of tourists quarantined at a hotel for two weeks after a visiting Italian doctor and his wife tested positive for coronavirus.
The 700 or so holiday makers, including 50 British citizens, were not allowed to leave the H10 Costa Adeje Palace Hotel to limit spread to locals.
Jet2holidays and Tui confirmed that dozens of their customers were staying at the hotel before they were finally allowed to start leaving on Friday.
A British woman and six Italians ended up coming down with coronavirus after going to the sunny resort fora break.
The travel industry launched the campaign to ‘spread advice and travel deals’ on social media and encourage people to keep going on holiday (pictured, a campaign picture posted by a travel agent)
An Instagram account, called KeepTheWorldTravelling, will post advice and travel deals ‘to demonstrate the public can still travel to the majority of destinations by following FCO advice’
Various independent travel operators have shown their support by tweeting the hashtag and memes adorning glorious pictures of sandy beaches and city lights (pictured)
Lucy Clarke, who claims to have 21 years of expertise in the travel industry, said: ‘Our wonderful Travel industry has had it hard over the last 6 months #keepcalmtravelon’
These are the arrivals boards at Heathrow today and show that flights to Milan and Venice this afternoon will no longer happen, causing chaos for thousands of people
Currently Britons and thousands of other internationals are stuck on the Grand Princess, docked in Oakland, after 21 people tested positive for COVID-19 last week. Some 140 British passengers are being repatriated tonight
Passengers wear face masks at Gatwick Airport today as British Airways axed its flights to Italy until the Easter break due to a large outbreak in the country
BRITONS TRAPPED ON DIAMOND PRINCESS FOR 20 DAYS BEFORE GOVERNMENT FINALLY RESCUED THEM
The Diamond Princess, a British-registered cruise ship owned and operated by Princess Cruises, became a coronavirus hotbed in February, linked to 696 cases and six deaths.
British nationals, of which there were 74 on board, were among the last to leave disease-ridden ship.
The UK Government was blasted for its dire handling of the evacuation after the US, Australia, Canada, South Korea, Hong Kong and Israel all airlifted more than 840 cruise passengers between them earlier in the week.
Furious Brits trapped on the Diamond Princess, which leading scientists have warned was an ideal breeding ground for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, accused ministers of ‘forgetting’ about them.
More than 2,000 internationals left the ship before UK passengers, who were at last rescued on February 22 after almost 20 days on the vessel.
Only 32 of the 78 British nationals who were trapped on the ship got on the plane, as officials admitted some refused to be with loved ones in hospital.
The evacuation flight was delayed by a day because it was ‘logistically complicated’, according to the British Embassy.
A honeymooner who was the first Briton to catch the killer coronavirus on the doomed Diamond Princess cruise attacked the Government for ‘forgetting’ about the Britons stuck on the ship and four who caught the virus on board.
Alan Steele, from Wolverhampton, blasted the Foreign Office for abandoning Britons on the virus-ridden ship after half a dozen countries rescued their citizens before the UK.
Mr Steele, 58, was forced to leave his new wife Wendy behind on the vessel when he tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 on February 7 and was whisked into isolation in a Japanese hospital.
He said Wendy was ‘struggling’ on her own on the Diamond Princess, docked off the coast of Japan, and likened his experience in a foreign infectious diseases ward to ‘solitary confinement in prison’.
In a scathing attack on the UK Government’s dire handling of a planned evacuation mission, lorry driver Mr Steele accused ministers of ‘treating us badly’ and added: ’78 Brits, what the hell do they matter?’
Mr Steele also accused Diamond Princess staff of exacerbating the spread of the virus by ignoring quarantine measures.
Authorities on the popular European island have already admitted they would not repeat the lockdown if the situation was to arise again.
Elsewhere, cruise liners holding thousands of passengers have been left in limbo in recent weeks and forced to stay in their cabins for days after coronavirus has been confirmed on board.
The Diamond Princess was quarantined off Japan in February. It was linked to almost 700 cases and six deaths, one of whom was a British man.
Currently Britons and thousands of other internationals are stuck on the Grand Princess, docked in Oakland, after 21 people tested positive for COVID-19 last week.
In both cases, the Government have been forced to rescue UK citizens with ‘frustratingly slow’ responses. Some 140 British Grand Princess passengers are being repatriated tonight.
Anyone currently in Italy – the hardest-hit COVID-19 country apart from China – may be dealt the blow that their flight home has been cancelled as the country went into lockdown as of today.
Ryanair, British Airways and Jet2 have today cancelled hundreds of flights to and from Italy until April at the earliest and easyJet has also grounded most of its services leaving thousands of customers stranded in the coronavirus-hit country.
BA has axed its 60 flights a day to cities including Milan, Venice and Rome while Jet2 has gone even further and cancelled all its Italian trips for almost seven weeks until April 26 with Easter holiday plans for thousands likely to be in ruins.
Leah Washington, the young woman who lost her leg in the Alton Towers Smiler rollercoaster disaster of 2015, and Jess Nicholls, 43, an enterprise change consultant, are among those left stranded in Italy.
Ms Nicholls said today she felt ‘dumped’ by BA after it notified her by email that her flight from Rome to London would be cancelled.
Although a number of airlines have cancelled some or all of their flights to and from Italy, Britons in the country can still fly home directly with relative ease.
In the last week BA, Virgin Atlantic, Ryanair and easyJet have all cancelled more than 1,000 flights across Europe, the US and Asia due to a drop in demand and a sharp rise in passenger no-shows.
Flybe blamed their collapse on coronavirus last week saying it a lack of bookings hastened their demise. The collapse left thousands of people across the UK and Europe worried about their journey home when the airline made its announcement overnight. It is not yet clear whether the Government will order a widespread repatriation of stranded passengers.
Travel disruptions has caused chaos for people worldwide, but travel agents’ have appealed for people to keep booking their holidays.
Linda Hall, director of LAH Travel wrote on Twitter: ‘Hoping common sense will prevail soon #KeepCalmTravelOn our poor industry is suffering so badly…. calling me stupid and selfish ! Tell that to my staff when they have no jobs ! [sic]’
Lucy Clarke, who claims to have 21 years of expertise in the travel industry, said: ‘Our wonderful Travel industry has had it hard over the last 6 months #keepcalmtravelon.’
A spokesperson for the FCO said it would not comment on the campaign, but that ‘travel advice remains under constant review’.
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