So, we can now see the result of the swine flu pandemic - the BBC have reported that reports of this illness have jumped by 50%! Do you remember our first blog on this issue, how the holidaymaker we reported on was dealt with by the HPA and Health Authorities? Do you remember all those holidaymakers caught in the first outbreak in Mexico and how they were repatriated? At the time some reports estimated that there were some 10,000 British holidaymakers in Mexico at the time! What then happened to the holidaymakers when they returned to the UK:
- Were they examined at the airport by the Port Health Authorities?
- Was each holidaymaker subject to regular questioning and monitoring?
- Were those holidaymakers suspected of being 'at risk' isolated and treated?
- Were tour companies advised as to the 'viability' of destinations as the risk grew?
I suspect the answer is 'No'! To use the old cliche - failing to plan is planning to fail?
Is it any wonder or surprise that we have so many cases in the UK? Can it really be said that we have the resources available or the preparedness to deal with mass illness in the UK? What about the returning Salmonella's, Giardia's etc that return to the UK with all the potential to infect? Do we actively deal with these issues?
Now if you are not worried about this issue - consider this - in the Phillipines there are reports of the Ebola virus in pigs! Is it such a leap of imagination for the Swine Flu virus to some how co-exist with the Ebola virus?
I note that the debate on this issue has been widely discussed within the respective Travel & Insurance Industry's. It is right as one contributor has suggested in this article that it is a question of scale, however, perhaps it is a portend of things to come, where one insurance company sought to exclude pandemics as a reason not to payout to holidaymakers who cancel (this was challenged by ABTA) and this company reversed their position.
However ABTA and the ABI are quoted as saying that,
"ABTA and the ABI warned that customers who cancelled simply because they did not want to risk travelling would not be covered".
In the same article, ABTA apparently went on to state that any holidaymaker seeking to cancel because of swine flu, "would be classed as being “disinclined to travel” and would be charged a cancellation fee".
"Disinclined to Travel"? Is that the same as 'normal booking conditions apply"?
It seems the Chinese are 'disinclined' to allow one group of British holidaymakers to travel!
I ask the following questions to those noble leaders of said industry's; would you travel with your family to a destination with an increased risk of swine flu? Honestly? Would you expect clear unambiguous guidance at the time you made your booking? Would you consider yourself so 'disinclined' if the situation became worse? Would you think it fair that a company would 'charge' you for your 'disinclination'? Is this not a great marketing opportunity for these companies, with all their resources to hand?
It's simple, if there is a risk at a destination, don't sell the holiday in the first place or if the situation changes help the holidaymaker to continue with a holiday!
For those interested, we have commented a great deal on the 'risk destination' and travel insurance issue - holidaymakers follow these arguments! We shall be watching this one closely!