Sky News:-A “British problem” of false food poisoning claims means hoteliers abroad could bar UK holidaymakers from their resorts, according to the travel industry.
Holiday firms have reported a surge in legal action – mostly involving claims management companies (CMCs) representing all-inclusive holiday customers.
Such holidaymakers are often targeted by touts working for so-called ambulance chasers, the industry claims, who use the fact all meals are eaten at the same hotel to bolster their case – winning thousands of pounds.
TUI, which owns the Thomson and First Choice holiday brands, said that since spring 2016 it had recorded 15 times more sickness claims than in previous years, despite reported sickness levels remaining stable.
The company’s UK managing director said it had caused “friction” with hotel owners.
Nick Longman told the Press Association: “There’s a distinct risk that if this carries on as it is unabated, the hoteliers will say to us either ‘We don’t want to work with the British market at all’ or ‘We’re not going to offer you all-inclusive’.
“I think that would be a terrible thing for the British customer. It’s just going to reduce the choice in terms of destinations and the type of holiday.”
All-inclusive breaks have become more popular since the Brexit vote as they keep a lid on in-resort spending – made more expensive for UK tourists by the collapse in the value of the pound.
The travel trade organisation Abta says a legal loophole it is seeking to close is encouraging lawyers to sign up people to claim they were ill even if they were not.
It argues recent laws aimed at curbing fraudulent whiplash claims by capping legal fees has pushed CMCs towards the travel industry, as the legislation does not apply to incidents abroad.
Holidaymakers making claims are also being warned that bogus claimants risk legal action in return.
One well-publicised case involves a British couple said to be at risk of losing their home after a Greek resort hotel brought a £170,000 counter claim against them after making a food poisoning allegation that was later withdrawn.
Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said of its Stop Sickness Scams campaign: “The Government must urgently address this issue.
“The legal loophole that is allowing firms to unduly profit from these claims must be closed.
“This would allow people with genuine claims access to justice but make this area less attractive to claims firms.”
Sky News has contacted the CMC industry’s trade body for a response.