Reporting holiday illness – what reps may tell you
The holiday rep is supposed to be the person you can turn to for help and information on holiday – but many holidaymakers find that when it comes to holiday illness at their hotel, holiday representatives can suddenly forget what they are supposed to be there for.
More and more holidaymakers are contracting serious gastrointestinal infections on package holidays run by major tour operators – and one of the reasons for this may be the rise in popularity of the all inclusive buffet.
All inclusive buffets are a breeding ground for cross contamination between serving utensils if food is infected with bacteria such as salmonella or E.coli.
Person-to-person contact round a crowded buffet in a busy dining room can also spread infections quicker than a Mexican wave.
But holiday food poisoning is easy to control with good food preparation, scrupulous hygiene practices and regular cleaning of the dining room area between guests.
Package tour operators now realise that an outbreak of holiday food poisoning at an hotel can leave them not only with salmonella-infected egg on their face – but also with a big compensation bill.
But don’t be fobbed off with a few words of comfort and no action from your rep. Here are some of the excuses holidaymakers with holiday food poisoning may hear from a holiday rep keen to get rid of them:
- You must have had the illness before you came away on holiday –have you booked your excursions yet?
- It’s just a ’24-hour’ bug – it’ll soon go.
- It’s no real problem – it’s just your body adjusting to the change in climate and food.
- There’s no-one else ill, so how can there be a problem at the hotel?
- You must have picked up the bug outside the hotel – have you booked for the balloon flight yet?
- It’s obviously a mysterious airborne virus – there’s nothing you can do about a virus, is there?
- Oh, that – it’s change in the local bacteria. It’s found naturally in fresh food in these parts so you’ll soon get used to it
- It must be too much sun or too much alcohol – you’ve been enjoying yourself too much, haven’t you? That’s what we like to see!
- Have you been swimming in the sea? You mustn’t do that on a full stomach or when it’s too hot. Have you booked for the wine tasting trip yet?
- Oh dear, maybe it’s other guests soiling the swimming pool and causing contamination. They come in from other hotels. I’ll tell the pool assistant. Hope you feel better soon. I’ve just got to book this couple in for an excursion later today. Bye.
- I’ll just talk to you in a minute. Oh, is that the time? I’ve got to be somewhere else in five minutes. I expect you’ll feel better soon. The food’s very rich here. Bye.
A lot of holiday reps are very conscientious, but when you meet one who just won’t take your holiday food poisoning seriously, there’s only one thing to do – let it all out… write a letter of complaint to the tour operator and claim compensation.
To do this you will need to see your GP or a doctor in resort for a diagnosis and when you have the results – and salmonella, E.coli, campylobacter and cryptosporidium are some of the most common infections – contact Simpson Millar.
Holidaymakers who are ill through no fault of their own on package holidays are covered by the 1992 Package Travel Regulations. It helps if you make a note of any instances of poor hygiene, undercooked meat or chicken (take a photo) or other issues such as dirty tables and public loos or swimming pools at your hotel.
Also make a note of what your holiday rep said when you told her about your holiday food poisoning and keep copies of letters and emails – and when you first phone Simpson Millar our travel claims lawyers will offer you a free assessment of your case.
Holiday food poisoning is nothing to laugh about, but one case which did make Simpson Millar’s lawyers smile involved one hapless holiday rep who thought that Norovirus was actually called “Northern virus” – and sympathetically told guests affected that the virus had been brought in on a flight by “Northerners”.
It is probably one of the worst excuses for an outbreak of avoidable holiday illness at a package holiday hotel we have ever heard.