By Kate Brown
The travel industry has reported a significant increase in holiday sickness claims despite illness in resorts declining. The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) found there were approximately 35,000 claims over holiday sickness in 2016, a 500% rise since 2013. The cost of these claims amounted to £240 million, resulting in the risk of travel agents and booking websites raising holiday prices for all.
Foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, said: “These claims make it more expensive for Brits to go abroad. They should not have to shoulder the inevitable rising costs of bogus accusations made by a small minority”.
Justice Minister, Rory Stewart, said: “This damages the travel industry and risks driving up costs for holidaymakers. This behaviour also tarnishes the reputation of British people abroad. That is why we are introducing measures to crack down on those who engage in this dishonest practice”.
Travel agents are now calling on the government to ban cold calls which encourage people to make a holiday sickness claim. Legal costs for package holiday sickness cases will also look to be fixed under new rules which aim to deter false illness claims.
Currently, many tour operators are put off challenging cases in court due to the potential of spiralling legal costs. However, cases where tour operators have uncovered false holiday sickness claims can demonstrate the serious repercussions this can have for claimants. One case in 2017 saw a couple who faked holiday sickness jailed for a combined total of 24 months.
Similar controls are in place for other personal injury claims. The government asked the Civil Procedure Rule Committee, who is responsible for setting rules on legal costs, to consider bringing package holiday claims under the same rules as personal injury. The committee approved the request and the limits on legal costs will now be extended to cases where travellers seek compensation. This will take effect in coming weeks.
Chief executive of the Association of Travel Agents, Mark Tanzer, said: “Closing the legal loophole before the summer should lead to a reduction in the number of false claims” and “We encourage the government to keep this matter under review and continue to pursue a ban on cold calling by claims management companies in relation to sickness claims”.