Hotelier association, Abta and other representatives at the meeting in Madrid.


Yesterday evening, leading members of the British and Spanish tourist industries met in Madrid to discuss a series of issues, but topping the agenda was the problem of the surge in false compensation claims. These last year cost hoteliers over 55 million pounds and have forced Spanish hoteliers into threatening to take drastic action such as banning British holidaymakers from all-inclusive packages.

Mark Tanzer, the director of the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) is leading the British delegation, while the presidents of various major hotelier federations, such as Inma Benito from Majorca and Joan Molas, the president of the Spanish hoteliers federation, Cehat, were present.

The recent upsurge in holiday sickness claims is "clearly fraud" and is putting the reputation of UK travel firms at risk. That is the view of Deloitte's lead partner for its travel, hospitality and leisure group, Graham Pickett, who urged industry leaders at the annual Barclays Travel Forum in London last week to do more to stamp out the soaring number of claims.

Abta reported the Balearics has seen a sevenfold increase in sickness claims by UK holidaymakers since 2015. Pickett said: "Clearly it’s fraud. There is no doubt about it. There is co-operation needed between the industry and police to investigate this stuff further. If we don’t do something as an industry, it will damage brands." Pickett praised Jet2holidays for hiring private detectives to catch out companies that are encouraging holidaymakers to make claims.

He spoke out as the Foreign Office (FCO) extended its warning of claims management firms soliciting bogus claims in Spain and Portugal. The FCO advised holidaymakers to "only consider pursuing a complaint or claim if you have genuinely suffered from injury or illness".

Abta has written to foreign secretary Boris Johnson to highlight "the negative impact on the reputation of UK holidaymakers". It called for a cap in legal fees to make holiday sickness claims less attractive to claims companies while ensuring legitimate claims can still be brought. Abta said: "It is illegal to make a fraudulent claim and travel companies are increasingly savvy about spotting signs of exaggerated or dishonest claims."

There have been warnings the high level of claims could push up prices, or lead all-inclusive hotels to stop selling to UK customers. And while Jet2 are going to have detectives operating in key resorts, the Majorca hoteliers federation is also taking its own action to try and catch the compensation touts with the full support of the local authorities.

The Majorca federation is very much to the fore in the fight against false claims. Inma Benito said ahead of the Madrid meeting that she was concerned that the UK elections will delay any movement with tackling the fraud. Once there is a new government, she remarked, "we hope that it will be sensitive to this problem and that there will be effective amendment of legislation".

Balearic members of the national Senate have, meanwhile, presented a motion urging the national government to use all diplomatic means to secure a change to UK legislation. Miguel Ramis (Partido Popular), a former mayor of Alcudia, says that UK legislation makes claims easy. All that's needed is proof of having brought a drug (usually imodium).

An incident was reported yesterday that a British holidaymaker in Greece was boasting about having made thousands from a false claim and fellow guests shopped him to the manager. Abta would like to see more of that help from the general public.