By Jean Christou
A British foreign exchange company moved swiftly on Wednesday to remove signs from all over Gatwick airport advising travellers to take plenty of cash with them to Greece and Cyprus because banks would be shut until next week.
Initially observers – one of whom tweeted a photo – believed the sign indicated the advice had come from the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), or Gatwick airport itself but it later emerged that the foreign exchange company Moneycorp were the culprits.
The sign advised people to take enough cash with them “to cover their expenses when going to Greece or Cyprus.”
It said credit and debit cards may become unsuitable means of payment, that banks were closed until July 6, and that there had been mixed reports on cash availability from ATMs.
A press spokeswoman at Moneycorp told the Cyprus Mail they had been made aware of the error and were removing the signs from around the airport. They would be issuing a statement to that effect, she said.
The initial tweet prompted a backlash against both ABTA and Gatwick and Cypriot tourism authorities rushed to contain the damage.
Cypriot high commissioner in London Euripides Evriviades quickly tweeted: “Will take action”.
Zacharias Ioannides, Director General of the Cyprus Hotel Association when informed by the Cyprus Mail, called the move “irresponsible”. He later said the association had immediately contacted the chairman of the Cyprus Tourism Organisation to take action.
ABTA tweeted a categorical denial: “This has NOT come from ABTA and we have already asked for the posters to be removed immediately”.
In an official statement later in the day an ABTA spokesperson said: “A travel poster at Moneycorp at Gatwick Airport which advised holidaymakers to Cyprus to take cash with them includes information which has been falsely attributed to ABTA. We have spoken to both Moneycorp and Gatwick Airport and have asked for the posters to be removed immediately. Cyprus is one of the UK’s favourite holiday destinations and ABTA enjoys working closely with Cyprus’ tourism authorities.”
A Gatwick airport press spokesman told the Cyprus Mail in an email: “We have tracked down the poster and are working to get it removed.” It was Gatwick that initially confirmed the signs had been placed there by Moneycorp.
The British High Commission in Nicosia also tweeted; “Action taken. Assured that sign will be changed”.
Ioannides later confirmed that the situation had been “restored to its true context”.