Once again we hear stories of crime and rampant injustice being practised against young British holidaymakers in Majorca and the failure by a tour operator to provide valuable assistance. It is interesting to note the Spanish Tourism website invites UK holidaymakers to a 'Special summer in the Balearic islands'! We have highlighted crime issues affecting holidaymakers in hotels since 2011 and are concerned with the state of lawlessness that appears to exist in some Spanish resorts. We hear the oft repeated mantra that the 'mishaps' suffered by young British holidaymakers is down to their over indulgence in drink or drugs; if that is truly the case, then why are the Spanish Law Enforcement authorities not cracking down on the over selling of alcohol and the trafficking of drugs? The simple fact is that such comments are too simplistic and fail to recognise the real crisis of crime be it organised, gang crime or 'inside job' crime in hotels! The recent British Behaviour Abroad Survey carried out by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office reveals that in the year 2011 to 2012 there were some 1,755 deaths (how many of those were 'suspicious'?), 18 rapes and 22 sexual assaults committed in Spain. However, what the survey does not not seen to cover is the number of burglaries, robberies, thefts, ordinary assaults or attacks or other crimes suffered by UK holidaymakers; perhaps these are hidden within the overall numbers requiring Consular assistance (5,405 - this will not include those who have not sought Consular Assistance or not being aided by their tour operator).
Consider now the report we have received from a group of young holidaymakers:
- 12 young British holidaymakers stayed in the resort of Magalluf in Majorca;
- Following a night out they returned to their hotel;
- They found that their rooms had been broken into (the suggestion was that this was done with a duplicate key);
- They advise that '1000's' had been stolen, including phones, valuables, clothes including boxer shorts!
- They called the hotel reception for assistance;
- The security attended their rooms;
- During this 'assistance' the security guards decided to 'take' some presents owned by the group;
- The security guards then 'intimidated' the group and demanded money from them;
- The security guards then ordered them to 'pack their bags';
- The group were then evicted by the security guards from the hotel;
- It appears that the police were not called either by the hotel or the Tour Operator Representative;
- It is clear that the Tour Operator Representative accepted that the group had done nothing wrong and claimed that a report to that effect would be written;
- Some of the young people went to the local police station and reported the burglary and events and have received information for them to make a claim with their travel insurance company (it will be interesting to see if the company accepts their claim as so many holidaymakers find their claims rejected by insurance companies. In this case we have advised them that if they do reject the claim to invoke the complaints process in the contract and if that does not work to complain to the Financial Services Ombudsman);
- There is no indication that the Guardia Civil are investigating these crimes;
- Apart from 'tea & sympathy' offered by the Tour Operator Representative, no further assistance was provided other than arranging for an early return to the UK at the cost to the group of holidaymakers;
- The group have managed however to obtain confirmation that they did nothing wrong;
- It also appears that the hotel is alleging that the 'burglaries' did not take place and that this was an insurance 'scam' perpetrated by these young people;
- It has been suggested that this Tour Operator has blindly accepted the hotel position and class the group's behaviour as 'disruptive behaviour' and they appear to be supporting the hotel's position;
- To date, the Tour Operator appears to be offering no further assistance;
- It is clear that the Tour Operator has their Representative's letter/report and are refusing to release this as they claim that this is an internal document (surely this has personal data contained therein and therefore subject to Data Protection laws? In addition, the refusal to provide the said document surely prevents the group from aiding the police in their enquiries and allowing them access to potential compensation via Criminal Injuries - is this fair and just in the circumstances - is this corporately acceptable?);
- The trade body for this Tour Operator has suggested that the group write a further letter and if they do not get a response, they will intervene! (Surely they are already in breach of the Code of Conduct if they have not responded? We are watching carefully and will guide the group accordingly!).
If we apply UK criminal offences to this scenario I would suggest that the following offences have been committed:
- Going Equipped to commit a crime;
- Failing to report a crime (hotel, security guards and quite possibly the tour operators representative);
- Suspected Burglary (Security Guards when they took the presents);
- Theft (Alternative charge against the Security Guards when they took the presents);
- Robbery (Aletrnative charge against the Security Guards when they took the presents);
- Demanding money with menaces (Security Guards);
- Assault (Security Guards).
What of the Tour Operator? Well their obligations rest within the Package Travel Regulations. Under Regulation 15 (7) it clearly states that in the event that a problem arises in the contract that has been due to the actions of a third party (the Burglar(s) & the Security Guards), then they 'will give prompt assistance to a Consumer in difficulty'. This means that they should aid the holidaymakers in accessing police services (not merely pointing them in the direction of the police station), interpretation, access to hospital care if required, resolving any difficulties with a hotel and so on. It is an important 'right' for Consumers and it is one that is all too often ignored by Tour Operators and their Representatives.
So, when you actually look at this terrible experience for this group, the only people that have gained is the tour operator (cost of the holiday), the airline (extra flight fees), the hotel (cost for the stay), the security guards (property not belonging to them), the burglar(s) (the property they stole), the Majorcan economy (the money these young people spent whilst there)!
What has this group of young British Holidaymakers gained?
- Loss of personal property;
- Loss of holiday;
- Loss of holiday cost;
- Loss of extra money for flight to come home;
- Little or no opportunity to have the 'crimes' investigated;
- Possible loss of access to criminal compensation;
- Anxiety & Upset!
I am certain that we will hear more of the same and in the meantime, hotels, security, tour operators, the Guardia Civil and other Authorities know that this crime chaos exists and by their inaction give tacit support to its continuance; is it any wonder that tourists do not return?
What will it take to garner the authorities into action - more suspicious deaths, injury, burglary, robbery, assaults?