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Thomas Cook halts holidays to Tunisia ‘hostage’ hotel

By Trevor Marshallsea, PA

Thomas Cook has stopped sending holidaymakers to a Tunisia hotel which demanded money from guests in what one tourist described as “like a hostage situation”.

Guests at the Les Orangers beach resort in the town of Hammamet, near Tunis, said security guards kept the gates shut while staff demanded visitors pay extra money, out of fear the tour operator would not honour its bookings.

Responding to customers’ complaints on Twitter on Sunday, Thomas Cook said: “A small number of customers were asked to pay for their hotel room before leaving Les Orangers in Tunisia yesterday, we have refunded those customers who paid on their credit cards.

“Anyone due to stay at this hotel will be offered an alternative hotel in Hammamet.”

The firm told another customer: “Thomas Cook will not be sending any new arrivals to Les Orangers and anyone due to stay at this hotel will be offered an alternative hotel in Hammamet on arrival. We continue to support customers in all our resorts.”

Ryan Farmer, from Leicestershire, said the hotel had on Saturday afternoon summoned all guests who were due to leave to go to reception, “to pay additional fees, obviously because of the situation with Thomas Cook”.

With many tourists defying the demand, since they had already paid the embattled travel company, security guards were keeping the hotel’s gates shut, refusing to allow guests out, or let new visitors enter.

“We can’t leave the hotel. I’d describe it as exactly the same as being held hostage,” Mr Farmer told BBC Five’s Stephen Nolan Show.

“We’ve been up to the gates. They had four security guards on the gates, holding the gates closed, and were not allowing anybody to leave.”

He said the guards were not responding to any pleas from guests to be allowed out.

“They don’t say anything, they just stand there holding the gates,” he said.

“There was a gentleman from Ireland trying to talk to the security guards and say, ‘Look, we want to go home, we want to go home. Can you let us out?’ They just look at him and laugh and continue to hold the gate shut.”

Mr Ryan said a woman in her 80s had been made to pay the hotel “more than £2,000”, although she had already paid Thomas Cook for her holiday.

“A Thomas Cook representative is trying to sort things out with the hotel, but they’re just not interested,” Mr Ryan said.