Maldives says will help Thomas Cook customers return home, sets up dedicated help desk
Maldives on Monday announced measures to help tourists affected by the collapse of British travel agent Thomas Cook, one of the leading tour operators to the Maldives.
In a joint statement, the Maldives’ tourism ministry, and the official tourism promotion body, Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), assured the best possible support for affected tourists on their return journey. All resort partners have been contacted to confirm the number of Thomas Cook travellers currently staying in the Maldives and to determine their return destination, they said.
“… the government will do everything in its power to ensure the well-being of the passengers affected,” tourism minister Ali Waheed was quoted in the statement, as saying.
The Maldivian authorities said the main Velana International Airport is operating as usual and measures have been put in place, including a dedicated help desk, to ease the situation for holidaymakers waiting to return home. Efforts will be made to provide food, assistance and accommodation, if required, they added.
“We’re very sorry to hear of the closure of Thomas Cook and it is our top priority to ensure that the return journey of all affected tourists will be as comfortable as possible,” Thoyyib Mohamed, Managing Director of MMPRC, said.
Thomas Cook’s 178-year existence of came to an end on Monday after the British travel firm failed to find private investment to keep it afloat, affecting thousands of holidaymakers.
The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is co-ordinating the repatriation, the biggest in peacetime, after the tour operator “ceased trading with immediate effect”.
Some 16,000 holidaymakers were booked to come back on Monday, and UK authorities hope to get at least 14,000 of them home on chartered flights.
The UK CAA — an arms-length body set up by the UK Department for Transport (DfT) — has chartered 45 jets to bring customers home from locations including Central America and Turkey. It will fly 64 routes on Monday in an undertaking called Operation Matterhorn.
The UK CAA is also contacting hotels accommodating Thomas Cook customers, who have booked as part of a package, to tell them that the cost of their accommodation will be covered by the government, through the Air Travel Trust Fund/ATOL cover.
Thomas Cook had secured a £900m rescue deal led by its largest shareholder Chinese firm Fosun in August, but a recent demand from its lending banks to raise a further £200m in contingency funding had put the deal in doubt.
The holiday company had spent all Sunday in talks with lenders trying to secure the additional funding and salvage the deal, but to no avail.
It had also asked the government for financial aid, a solution also urged by Labour and union groups.
But on Sunday Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the BBC the government did not “systematically step in” when businesses went under unless there was “a good strategic national interest”
Customers on a package holiday have Atol protection – a fund paid for through industry levies – which will cover the cost of their holiday and repatriation.
Thomas Cook has blamed a series of issues for its problems including political unrest in holiday destinations such as Turkey, last summer’s prolonged heatwave and customers delaying booking holidays because of Brexit.
But the firm has also faced fierce competition from online travel agents and low-cost airlines.
In addition, many holidaymakers are putting together their own holidays and not using travel agents.
Thomas Cook had been one of the leading European tour operators to the Maldives, with the firm heavily contributing to the growth of the UK market in Maldives’ tourism.
The latest official figures released by the Maldives’ tourism ministry put the UK at the fourth position amongst the top source markets to the Maldives with a marketshare of 7.4 per cent. Visitor numbers from the UK saw an increase of 11.1 per cent to reach 73,262 during the first seven months of the year.
Thomas Cook also runs a resort on the island of Eriyadu under its “smartline” brand.