Tui is facing questions over its pricing tactics for Tunisia in the months before 30 of the tour operator’s clients were murdered in the Sousse beach massacre.
Lawyers representing the families of those killed in the June 2015 terrorist attack also said that Tui did not mention the risk of terrorism in any of its merchandising, during a pre-inquest hearing in London.
Andrew Ritchie, QC, who represents 17 of the families, told the hearing that Tui and other tour operators had cut prices following the terrorist attack on tourists at the Bardo Museum in Tunis in March 2015.
He said Tui and other operators had told the FCO that they “intended to use reduced pricing strategies to drive further tourists to be attracted to Tunisia” following the Bardo attack.
“It is clear that there were meetings post-Bardo on March 24 involving Tui and the Tunisians in which it was stated clearly by the honorary consul that hotels will be expected to raise their own security measures in line with the increased security threat,” added Ritchie.
“So it is of vital interest to the families in the context of lowered prices to induce Brits to go to Tunisia whether the travel companies and the hotels made good and continued to make good on that promise to keep the embargo [FCO advice against travel] off.”
Ritchie said that the inquest would have to consider “whether Her Majesty’s Government should have imposed a duty of candour on the travel companies”.
“The Foreign Office cannot, we suggest, have been unaware that Tui did not mention, refer to, summarise or in any way deal with terrorism in Tunisia either in their online brochures or their hard copy brochures,” added Ritchie.
“See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil was the rule that they were following.
“And that in the light of the high risk of terrorist activity in Tunisia post-Bardo may be something that would impinge on an Article 2 responsibility to require a duty of candour from UK travel companies.”
Howard Stevens, representing Tui, said the tour operator “would not accept the assertion made by Mr Ritchie in relation to pricing strategies”.
“It would not accept either the suggestion that he made, that Tui was under an obligation to refer specifically to or summarise FCO advice in other words, the content of that advice on its website or literature,” Stevens told the hearing.
Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith, who has been appointed coroner for the inquest, said: “I understand that there may be or are likely to be civil proceedings at some point.”
The next pre-inquest hearing will take place on September 13 with the inquest due to start in London in January 2017.