Thomas Cook customers say hotel in Tunisia stopped them leaving

FILE PHOTO: The beach in Hammamet, Tunisia, July 2, 2019. REUTERS/Ammar Awad/File Photo

TUNIS (Reuters) - British tourists in Tunisia said their hotel stopped them leaving for several hours on Saturday night over concerns about payment by their holiday operator Thomas Cook, though the Tunisian government said the incident was a misunderstanding.

Gary Seale, a guest at the Orangers Hotel in Hammamet, posted on Facebook at 9.39pm: “security have refused to let us out of the hotel and barricaded us in”. He later posted that he reached the airport later on Saturday and flew home on Sunday.

The incident came amid growing concerns raised by some customers of Thomas Cook, as the company’s bosses met lenders and creditors in London in a last-ditch attempt to raise 200 million pounds ($250 million) to keep it afloat.

The British government has said it has plans in place to bring home stranded holidaymakers if Thomas Cook TCG.L - the world's oldest travel company - goes out of business.

Thomas Cook itself was not immediately available to comment, but it has been using its social media channels to reassure customers that the company is still operating as normal.

The company said on Twitter on Sunday it would refund customers who paid on their credit cards for their hotel before leaving Tunisia and would not be sending any new arrivals to Les Orangers, Tunisia.

Tunisia’s Tourism Ministry on Sunday attributed the incident to a “misunderstanding” and said the tourists had been able to leave on the flight on which were originally booked.

“Fourteen tourists were asked to wait a few minutes to confirm with the representative of Thomas Cook... and quickly got the agreement, and the tourists left and traveled on time last night,” the ministry said in a statement.

Tourism, a critical sector for Tunisia’s economy, was hit hard in 2015 by two militant attacks that killed scores of people, with tourist numbers only recovering this year according to the government.

Reporting By Tarek Amara and Angus McDowall, additional reporting by Kate Holton and Sathvik N from Bengaluru; Editing by Andrew Heavens and David Evans