A WHITELEY travel firm is planning to bring home more than 300 of its holidaymakers from The Gambia amid growing political unrest in the African country.
Independent tour operator Serenity Holidays runs package holidays and flights to the country as The Gambia Experience.
As a responsible tour operator we have pre-planned procedures for eventualities such as this and are working with the FCO and airline partners to offer pre-emptive repatriation flights back to the UK.Staement from Serenity Holidays
The company, which is based at Solent Business Park, is now looking to fly 334 customers home after a 90-day state of emergency was declared.
Gambia is in a state of political deadlock after president Yahya Jammeh refused to hand over power after losing an election.
Yesterday, he banned ‘any acts of disobedience’ and now a group of west African nations have threatened to take military action if he does not hand power to his successor Adama Barrow by a deadline later this week.
The situation has led to the Foreign Office urging Britons to avoid travelling to the country.
A statement on behalf of Serenity Holidays said: ‘While the current situation in The Gambia remains calm, the safety and wellbeing of our customers is of paramount importance to us.
‘As a responsible tour operator we have pre-planned procedures for eventualities such as this and are working with the FCO and airline partners to offer pre-emptive repatriation flights back to the UK.’
The tour operator said that it had 225 package holiday customers and 109 flight-only customers in The Gambia.
Chris Rowles, the company’s managing director, is currently in the country helping customers.
The statement continued: ‘Our team in The Gambia are currently contacting customers in the resort to inform them of the change to FCO advice and will be providing details of the flight options back to the UK.’
Fellow holiday company Thomas Cook, which has branches in Portsmouth and Gosport, said it was running additional flights into Banjul, the country’s capital, to bring 985 package customers home.
A spokesperson for the FCO said: ‘The potential for military intervention and civil disturbance is high and could result in Banjul International Airport being closed at short notice.
‘You should follow events closely, take extra care, keep in regular contact with your tour operator and airline and continue to monitor travel advice and social media updates in case tensions rise as the current political deadlock continues.’
The Association of British Travel Agents estimates that there are around 2,000 people on holiday with its members in The Gambia and an additional number will have travelled independently.
Customers booked for future travel with The Gambia Experience are advised to check gambia.co.uk/faq for more information over the coming days.