Holiday health and why the fraudsters won’t win

First aid vehicleGetting a dose of Delhi belly or a Montezuma’s revenge can ruin a holiday, but at least travel insurance provides some financial solace. However, a rise in bogus food poisoning claims is pushing-up premiums, adding pounds to packaged holidays, and may see Brits banned from some all-inclusive destinations.

The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) has launched a campaign to Stop Sickness Scams which shines a light on the growing problem of fraudulent food poisoning claims. In the past five years claims have increased by 500%; while cases reported directly to hotels and holiday companies haven’t changed. Clearly something suspicious is going on and it’s seems to be a peculiarly British problem.

Much of the blame is being pinned-on unscrupulous claims management companies who are pushing holidaymakers into making bogus claims. It’s a story which echoes the ‘epidemic’ of fraudulent whiplash claims which cost the car insurance industry £1billion a year until the recent clampdown.

Legislation which was used to close legal loopholes regarding whiplash claims excludes overseas claims and is being exploited by greedy (and persuasive) claims companies. The ABTA campaign is calling for the same measures to be introduced for food poisoning claims, notably: an end to cold calling, a cap on claims management fees, and an insistence on more robust medical evidence.

Food poisoning fraud isn’t harmless holiday fun, but can have serious consequences. Not only are you breaking the law in the UK, which could lead to a criminal record or a custodial sentence, but also overseas. Hotels have been hit hard (with a group of hotels in Majorca reporting that claims cost them £42million last year) and it’s law-abiding holidaymakers who ultimately pick-up the bill. In fact, the situation is getting so dire that several countries, including Spain and Turkey, are considering banning Brits from their all-inclusive resorts.

The government has been quick to react with the Justice Secretary David Lidington commenting “Our message to those who make false holiday sickness claims is clear; your actions are damaging and will not be tolerated. This government is absolutely determined to tackle the compensation culture which has penalised the honest majority for too long”.

Top ten tips for holiday health

Do your Homework Start researching local health risks 6-8 weeks before setting-off to give you plenty of time for inoculations. The NHS website fit for travel provides country specific health tips and details recommended jabs and prophylaxis.

Muddy Waters You don’t have to visit the developing world to get traveller’s tummy and water is the most common culprit. Even in Europe it’s safer to stick to bottled water and that includes: cleaning your teeth, in your drink (as ice) and washing fruit or vegetables.

Sun Shade Covering-up reduces the damaging effect of UV rays that can age your skin and cause cancer. Stay out of the sun at the hottest times of the day and always use an approved sunscreen.

Medical Kit Packing an emergency first aid kit could save your life and will certainly make your holiday much more comfortable. Besides prescriptions, painkillers and plasters it’s worth packing sterile dressings, insect repellent and antihistamines.

Stay Hydrated Travelling is thirsty work (aeroplanes can be especially dehydrating) so make sure you carry plenty of water to keep your body in balance.

Beware of Buffets Mealtimes are often a holiday highlight, but buffets should be approached with caution. The food may have been sitting about for a while and you can’t be sure who (or what) has already paid a visit.

Eat Local If you order a pizza in Portugal or a paella in Paris you are asking for trouble; instead stick to seasonal and local cuisine.

Risk Free Holidays are a great excuse to throw caution to the wind and try something new, but don’t do anything that you wouldn’t do at home, including hiring a scooter without a helmet.

Get Insured Travel insurance won’t stop you from getting sick, but it will take care of expensive medical bills. You’ll also enjoy a wide range of additional benefits from cancellation and curtailment to lost luggage.

And Relax Everyone has different ways of unwinding, but it’s important to take time out to recharge your batteries and reboot your immune system.



Leave a Reply