I have been closely monitoring the range of complaints we have received these past few weeks from UK holidaymakers. The complaints stem from as far away as the Caribbean to the Eastern Mediterranean; some of them on cruise ships! The nature of the complaints we receive would at first glance only appear to be of a contractual nature, but they often hide the fact that the holidaymaker has suffered with illness! Holidaymakers quite frequently gloss over these illness complaints being more concerned by other problems and often saying to us that illness or sickness on holiday is 'just one of those things!' - rarely is that the case! Many of the illnesses suffered are found to be much more serious than a so-called simple 24 hour bug; for many holidaymakers, their 'illness' will often last right through the holiday and for quite sometime after they come home! So, how can a holidaymaker deal with illness whilst they are on holiday; I will set out some frequently asked questions or points raised by Travel Consumers?
I saw a negative travel review before I left telling me there was illness at the hotel!
This is a more common complaint than you realise! Holidaymakers will often 'keep an eye' on their hotel before they travel, often encouraged by tour operator brochures who feature travel reviews. Travel companies like to 'showcase' the positive reviews as part of their selling process but whenever a holidaymaker challenges them with a negative review, the tour company will often state that these are the 'subjective opinions' of the holidaymaker and therefore not verifiable! This is contradictory, because if you can rely on a travel review for a positive opinion, surely you should take a negative review into account! In all cases, before you speak to a tour company about your concerns make a list of the complaints and web address of where you have seen the review (make sure that you print a copy off for your records - it's evidence!). If the tour company refuse to accept your 'evidence' that something is wrong in your resort, then make sure you send them a copy of the 'negative' review(s) - remind them that you will use this 'evidence' against them is something goes wrong! To summarise:
- Copy the details of the 'negative' review you have read;
- Challenge the 'negative' reviews with the tour operator; do they accept there is a problem, if not why not?
- Print off a copy of the 'negative' review - this is your evidence;
- If they refuse to accept the 'evidence' remind them you will use it if you subsequently find that there is a problem!
I am concerned with reports of illness at my hotel/ship; what are my rights?
This is usually the next question following a negative review! Quite simply, in each holiday contract there is an implied clause that your health and safety will be protected. Therefore if the problem is serious and you can show that others are talking about the problem through reviews (remember travel companies monitor or own most of the travel review websites!)! You can claim that a 'significant change' is taking place in your holiday contract - that is there is no guarantee that your health will be kept safe! Under Regulation 12 of the Package Travel Regulations, the tour operator is supposed to let you know when a significant change is taking place! The law is silent about you telling them, but we always recommend that you do, citing Regulation 12! This Regulation requires the tour operator to let you know of the change and to allow you to cancel the holiday without penalty! You have to let the holiday company know quickly what you decide to do! Where a 'significant change' arises, they also have to give you rights under Regulation 13; that is, an upgrade to a higher classification where available, a downgrade where it's available with the price difference being refunded or your money back. In some cases you may be entitled to compensation. Remember, the Regulations cannot be overridden by the contract terms and conditions and there is nothing in the Regulations that states that you have to pay extra to make changes! To summarise:
- There is an implied clause that your health & safety will be protected!
- If there are problems, there may be a 'significant change' in your holiday contract!
- Ask for your pre-departure 'significant change' rights under Regulation 12 of the Package Travel Regulations;
- Ask for your pre-departure 'significant change' rights under Regulation 13 of the Package Travel Regulations;
- Remember, these rights cannot be overridden by clauses in a contract nor is there a requirement for you to pay extra for changes to your holiday!
I have just arrived in the resort and lots of people are ill; what can I do?
In situations like this it is often the case that facilities of the hotel or cruise ship are temporarily closed, such as the pool, multiple dining areas, entertainment etc. This is because the tour company and/or the hotelier may be trying to resolve the problem. However, it is often too late to resolve matters and temporary solutions often do not solve the health problem. It is often the case that kitchens need a radical overhaul, pools need major re-cleansing and ships require time out of service! If you are faced with this problem, speak to the tour representative, listen to what they have to say; give them a chance to rectify the problem! If however, the hotel facilities are being closed down and more people are ill, then you should speak with your representative and ask for your rights under Regulation 14. This right kicks in whenever there is a failure to deliver a 'significant proportion' of the services you have contracted for (there is also an argument that if they knew about this before you left, that they have failed to deliver your 12 & 13 rights before departure)! The tour company must find a solution to the problem and if you do not accept their solution with good reasons, then they must fly you back to your original departure point without delay (and at no extra cost to you) and where appropriate provide you with compensation! To summarise:
- Are facilities being closed at your hotel because of illness?
- Are you receiving what you contracted for?
- Speak to the rep; give them the chance to put rights what has gone wrong;
- If the problem continues and a 'significant proportion of services' are not delivered, ask for your rights under Regulation 14 of the Package Travel Regulations;
- Give them a chance to find a solution under Regulation 14;
- If for good reason you cannot accept their solution, ask for a flight home as soon as possible to your original departure airport;
- You are not required to pay extra;
- You may be entitled to compensation under Regulation 14!
I have become ill at the hotel/ship, what do I do?
If you have brought some medication with you, take it and hopefully that will alleviate the problem! If that does not stop your illness, speak to your tour representative and find out how to access medical help! Always follow their instructions, BUT, if you are not sure about the proposed medical treatment or medication, call your GP in the UK for further guidance (important if you are already on medication). When visiting a Doctor or Clinic make sure you bring your travel insurance with you (if you are in an EU Country bring your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)). Be careful about hotels/doctors/tour operators 'arranging' for 'stool samples! Ask first who is carrying out the sample test, where will the sample be stored, what are they testing for and when they will receive a copy of the test result; always ask for your sample to be returned so that you can compare it against another test when you come home to the UK! To summarise:
- If you become ill, take your own medicines first to see if they work;
- If the problem continues, see the rep about how to find a Doctor or health clinic;
- Follow medical instructions, however if you are unsure about the treatment or medication, then call your GP in the UK for further guidance!
- When visiting a Doctor or Clinic bring your Travel Insurance and/or EHIC card!
- Question carefully the nature of stool samples; who, what, why, where should be your key questions and always get your sample back!
Me and my family have had our holiday ruined by sickness; what should I do?
The important thing is to follow all health advices and try to get into a fit state to fly home! If there is a question mark about your 'fitness to fly', you will have to get a certificate from a Doctor allowing you to fly home! You should speak with your resort representative about your illness and ask for a customer complaints form, if you haven't already done so. Complete the form and make sure you get a copy! If they refuse to give you a complaints form (Sometimes they say they have run out - good evidence perhaps! Sometimes they simply refuse!), if you find yourself in that situation, write down your complaints on hotel notepaper or ordinary paper, sign it, give a copy to the tour representative and invite them to sign your copy! If they refuse to do so, note their refusal on both copies if possible! To summarise:
- Make sure you are 'fit to fly' - get a certificate if there is some doubt!
- Get a customer complaints form from the travel rep, complete it or do your own if none are available!
- If you have to do your own, then invite them to sign your copy and theirs!
- If they refuse to sign, note their reasons for not doing so!
Are there other things I should do?
Yes, remember others were ill also and they are probably wondering what to do! Give them this information and take their contact details - keep in touch with them - they are your witnesses! Take video and photos with your mobile phone; many holidaymakers forget they have this facility! If taking photos and video, make sure you do so legally! If many people have suffered illness, get a list of their names and contact details - a group will help you in the long run! Make sure you keep this information close to you at all times; if possible make several copies and share that information amongst family and friends in case it is taken from you or that you 'lose' it! To summarise:
- Get holidaymakers contact details; form a group if necessary!
- Use your mobile phone - take 'legal' photos and videos!
- Make several copies of your information and share it between family and friends - this prevents any loss should the information be taken from you by the hotelier or other person(s)!
What should I do when I come home?
You should write a letter of complaint to your tour operator within 28 days of your return. Do not worry if you have missed this period, there will often be genuine reasons for doing so, just make sure you write to them as soon as possible and give them the opportunity to put right what has gone wrong! Do not give access to your medical records without talking to us first - your health problem may not resolved - GP medical records only give a 'snapshot' in time, they do not tell the whole story! Do not accept ANY voucher or money unless you have spoken to us first or obtained other independent advices! To summarise:
- Write within 28 days of coming home setting out your complaints to the tour operator;
- If you miss the deadline, do not worry, write as soon as possible!
- Give them the opportunity to put right what has gone wrong;
- Do not give access to medical records without getting guidance first!
- Do not accept any vouchers or money without talking to us first!
I hope this brief guide will help you in what is a difficult situation!
It may help you to understand some of the terminology used by searching our dictionary!
You may find the information on your rights within our 'Holidaymakers BackPack' useful!
If you have been affected by any of the issues here and are unsure what to do, then e mail or call us for Free Advice & Assistance!