The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) said there were around 35,000 gastric sickness claims by British holidaymakers in 2016, a 500 per cent rise since 2013 with the problem of false claims very much under the spotlight again this year. The majority of the complaints were reported by claims management companies who cold call tourists once they arrive home. Previously, a loophole allowed dodgy claims management firms to levy unlimited legal costs for incidents that take place overseas. Tour operators fighting the claims have therefore had to pay costs well out of proportion to the damages. Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA said: “Fake claims have been costly to the travel industries in the UK and popular overseas destinations and damaged the reputation of British holidaymakers abroad.” Other hoteliers have warned they will pull holiday deals from the UK market.
Claim firms suggested that a receipt for Imodium, a common over-the-counter treatment for diarrhoea, was sufficient enough to launch a claim. Many hoteliers preferred to settle to avoid hassle, and the government estimates the hospitality industry has paid out at least £240 million, with hotels in Majorca alone paying out £42 million in 2016.
But in order to save the sanity and livelihood of the travel industry, there has been a concerted legal fightback before the peak of this year’s summer season. The British government asked the Civil Procedure Rule Committee, which is responsible for setting rules on legal costs, to consider bringing package holiday claims under the same rules as personal injury claims, which has since come in to effect. The new law limits the costs firms can command for making holiday sickness claims.