High levels of E. coli and staphylococcus bacteria were found at the hotel on Egypt’s Red Sea coast where two British tourists died suddenly on August 21, Thomas Cook stated on Wednesday.
The London-based travel agency is halting reservations at the hotel in question until further notice, the statement added.
On August 21, 69-year-old John Cooper and his 63-year-old wife Susan died due to causes that remain unknown at the Steigenberger Aqua Magic hotel in Hurghada. Susan, who worked for Thomas Cook, was on holiday with her husband and daughter when she and John Cooper fell ill and died suddenly.
Thomas Cook stated that tests were conducted by an independent hygiene specialist and air quality specialist on food, water and air samples taken from across the hotel — with the exception of the Coopers’ hotel room, which remains under the control of Egyptian authorities.
The preliminary results were reviewed by an independent expert, Dr Vanya Gant, a consultant and divisional clinical director in microbiology and infection at University College London Hospital’s NHS Foundation Trust, the company added.
“It is clear from these results that something went wrong in August at the Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel in Hurghada and that standards fell below what we expect from our hotel partners,” Wednesday’s statement read.
“This is also supported by a review that we have conducted of our customer satisfaction scores, which fell sharply during this month,” it continued.“It is likely that the presence of e-coli and staphylococcus would explain the raised level of illness reported among guests at the hotel during this time, supporting Thomas Cook’s decision to remove our 300 customers.”
However, the test results do not conclusively reveal the tourists’ cause of death, the statement explains, saying, “Neither our independent specialists nor Dr. Vanya Gant believe that these results shed any light on the still unexplained cause of death of Mr and Mrs Cooper. We await the results of the autopsies being conducted by the Egyptian authorities.”
The tests conducted also show that, other than the bacteria that was found, there were no other violations of hygiene standards at the hotel, the statement added. This comes as a challenge to media reports claiming that carbon monoxide leaks may have been the cause of death for the two tourists. Egypt’s public prosecutor has also denied reports of carbon monoxide leaks.
The travel agency has shared the results of its report with Egyptian authorities and the Deutsche Hospitality group, which has a franchise agreement with the Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel. It is also planning to compensate all customers staying at the Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel in Hurghada during August who have reported illness, according to Wednesday’s statement.
Both Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and the Red Sea Governorate have denied any suspicion of foul play.
Steigenberger Hotel management did not respond to Mada Masr’s request for comment regarding the Thomas Cook statement.
The deceased couple’s daughter, Kelly Ormerod, said at the time of her parent’s death that they did not suffer from any illnesses and that something must have happened in their hotel room, according to statements reported by the Guardian.
Three days after the British couple’s death, Thomas Cook released a statement on Facebook announcing that it had sent a team of 24 people to support their 300 customers in the hotel overnight.
Following the incident, the British Hospitality group transferred other guests from the hotel, Sally Khattab, the marketing director at the hotel, previously told Mada Masr. The group did not halt operations with other branches of the hotel in the same city, Khattab added.
Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism has yet to directly address the media, particularly foreign press outlets, regarding the incident.
However, it is unlikely that this incident will impact Egyptian tourism, Elhamy al-Zayat, former head of Egypt’s Federation of Chambers of Tourism, told Mada Masr.
Egyptian tourism has improved significantly this year, with 8.3 million tourists visiting in 2018 compared to 5.4 million tourists in 2016, when Egypt recorded its lowest number of visitors in at least a decade.