Earlier this week, ailing British travel company Thomas Cook ceased its flight services, leaving over 150,000 UK holidayers stranded abroad. Thousands of these vacationers - around 4,500 - were stuck in Tunisia, some of whom were even barricaded by hotel managers who feared they wouldn't be paid for stays amid the crisis.
Guests at Les Orangers Beach Resort, located in the coastal town of Hammamet, said they were locked inside its premises on Saturday and told they would only be let out after paying a 6,000-Tunisian-dinar ($2,097) unpaid fee. Two Thomas Cook customers, identified as Maddie Clamp and Shaun Holmes, shared details of the ordeals in statements to The Guardian. They explained that the resort's management worried it wouldn't be paid its dues on behalf of guests who booked through Thomas Cook Airlines.
"Holiday companies do not normally pay hotels until up to 90 days after guests have left," the British newspaper explained, which clarifies why guests who had booked holiday packages through Thomas Cook were detained by the hotel's staff.
However, by Sunday, representatives from the now defunct company resolved the matter and the tourists were eventually allowed to leave to catch flights back home.
Holiday from hell?
UK travelers who booked the vacation of their dreams via the airline company had their tourist plans destroyed amid the ordeal.
Lynn and Peter Taylor, two holidaymakers who arrived in Tunisia on a Thomas Cook flight, said that amid all the chaos, guests were asked for extra payment as they were leaving the hotel.
"Those who were due to leave today had letters slipped under their door. The hotel was asking for 6,000 TD. I think one old lady paid it. We're not," Lynn explained.
In statements to press, a few people locked in the Tunisian hotel said a local representative from Thomas Cook worked hard to ensure their issues were resolved. The company has since confirmed that any tourist who had paid the hotel to leave its premises had been refunded.
"We are aware that a small number of customers were asked to pay for their hotel room before leaving Les Orangers in Tunisia [on Saturday]. This has now been resolved and customers flew home as planned. We continue to support our customers in all our resorts," a Thomas Cook spokesman said.
The hotel accused of imprisoning clients declined to comment or provide any details on the incident.
Egypt's tourism sector will take a blow following the collapse of the British company
According to Al Araby, around 1,600 tourists are in Egypt's Hurghada resort waiting for repatriation and alternative plans.
Egypt's tourism sector had been fragile the past few years following terror attacks, the 2011 revolution, and the downing of a Russian plane in 2015.
Thomas Cook was the first airline to resume business in Egypt in 2018 after the 2015 incident. This had helped and encouraged tourists to flock again to the North African country, brining along 400,000 visitors annually.
Currently, Egypt's tourism sector is at risk once again as the UK, along with Germany and Russia, are its biggest markets.
On Monday, Thomas Cook operator Blue Sky Group said 25,000 reservations in Egypt - booked up to April 2020 - had been canceled after the British holiday company announced bankruptcy. Another 75,000 reservations - booked throughout 2020 - might also face a similar fate.
The airline had been struggling for months
Considered the oldest holiday company in the world, the institution was founded in 1841 by Derbyshire cabinet-maker Thomas Cook. Over its long history, it was sold and taken over by several companies until it merged with the UK-listed owner of Airtours, MyTravel Group, in 2017.
This merger deal nearly ended in collapse in 2011 but the owner companies were bailed out by its banks. This rescue wasn't all positive as it left Thomas Cook with a debt burden of £1.7 billion ($2.1 billion). The company struggled ever since and its losses catapulted in recent months.
The final blow to the airline came after talks held between the company's executives and stakeholders failed to produce a funding lifeline for it to keep going.
The company's 21,000 employees, including 9,000 within the UK, are now set to possibly lose their jobs.
At the time being, a total of 600,000 people are on holiday plans sold by the travel company. While the majority of them are British, many are also from Germany and Scandinavia.
Some good news for travelers who booked holiday packages with Thomas Cook is that they are expected to receive full refunds as they're protected under the Air Travel Organiser's Licence (ATOL) scheme.
The system guarantees the bookings of package holidaymakers and "covers holiday accommodation as well as return flights if customers are abroad at the time of a collapse."
Travelers who had only booked airline tickets will not be refunded as their purchases are not covered by the ATOL scheme.
People dealing with the airline's UAE-based offices will not be affected by the collapse because the regional franchise is affiliated with Thomas Cook India, which operates as a separate entity.