Old Catton couple’s holiday ruined by civil unrest

A couple have told how their plans to celebrate their third wedding anniversary with a sunshine break to Tunisia have been thrown into turmoil by the current civil unrest in the north African country.

Peter Thouless and his wife Jo had planned to spend their anniversary on March 22 in Tunisia and had booked and paid for a week's all inclusive break with Thomas Cook just days before the trouble escalated.

A state of emergency was declared in the winter sun destination earlier this month after President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled the country in the wake of protests which began in December and which have seen at least 78 people killed.

Mr Thouless, 57, who lives with his wife at Beeches Close, Old Catton, said they had been due to fly out from Norwich on March 20 but after seeing pictures of the extent of the trouble being beamed back, decided to change their plans.

He said: 'I went onto the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website and they said don't go unless your an essential traveller.

'The idea was to go for a week's holiday, with our anniversary on the 22nd, and have a nice, relaxing week but with the turmoil and unrest it didn't feel safe to go safe to go at this time.

'I phoned the Thomas Cook and they said they were taking information from the FCO and were looking at it on a week-by-week basis. I dare say there would be a Dunkirk spirit from some people but I didn't feel I wanted to jeopardise me or myself or my wife and put us at unnecessary risk.'

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The father-of-two, said he wanted to cancel the holiday to Tunisia but was prepared to look at going to a different destination with the travel company but was told he would have to pay a 30pc cancellation.

Mr Thouless, a former handyman, said: 'I appreciate there would have to be some cost, but I think 30pc of the price of the holiday, about �250, is a bit excessive.'

He added that under the circumstances, with the outbreak of civil unrest in Tunisia, Thomas Cook had been somewhat inflexible and had not shown any good will in their refusal to budge on the cancellation fee.

A spokesman for Thomas Cook said the FCO did not advise against all but essential travel to Tunisia until Thursday, January 13 and a state of emergency was not declared until Friday, January 14.

Following advice from the FCO the company has updated its travel policy for customers due to travel out to Tunisia up to an including February 28, allowing these customers free amendments to their travel plans so they can delay their holiday or book an alternative destination.

The spokesman added: 'We appreciate Mr and Mrs Thouless's concerns but at the time of his booking the FCO had not changed its travel advice to Tunisia. We will continue to review the situation for travel after February 28 in line with the continued advice from the FCO and in the meantime our customer relations team are contacting Mr and Mrs Thouless to discuss their options.'

Have your travel plans been ruined by trouble elsewhere in the world? Call reporter Peter Walsh on 01603 772436 or email peter.walsh@archant.co.uk