HolidayTravelWatch has been speaking with dozens of holidaymakers affected by the reports of illness at the Hotel Sentido Perissia in Side in Turkey. The Organisation has noted the reports in the Daily Mail and in particular the comment from the tour operator, Thomas Cook, that holidaymakers have suffered a 'stomach upset lasting 24 to 48 hours' and that they believed that 'this is of a viral nature'.
HolidayTravelWatch has received indications of confirmed diagnoses of E Coli and Giardia Lamblia. Holidaymakers tell us that many suffered with hospitalisation and illness for more than 48 hours, with some now reporting illness for nearly 2 weeks; it is clear that some returned holidaymakers have not recovered.
Some Consumers we have spoken to are not only ill but are frightened that other members of their family will become ill (this has happened in several cases) and want to return to the UK. At present, the tour operator is simply advising holidaymakers that if they want to return, then they must source and pay for their own flights.
The principal Consumer rights in this situation rests within the Package Travel Regulations. Regulation 14 deals with the scenario where a 'significant proportion of services [are] not provided'.
In the present case it is clear that the tour operator cannot at this time guarantee health and safety with this holiday product (evidenced by them temporarily withdrawing the product).
Safety is a major service component of any holiday and affects the delivery of all other components.
Therefore it follows that if they cannot guarantee the safety of intending holidaymakers, how can they guarantee the safety of those currently in the hotel?
Holidaymakers are advising that they are being told that local hotels will not accept their transfer, making it impossible for the tour operator to transfer Consumers from the hotel.
Consumers also tell us that they cannot use the swimming pool as it is subject to regular closure and they and their family are frightened to eat or use other facilities which they fear may make them ill.
It is clear that a 'significant proportion of services' cannot be delivered, the most important one being health and safety!
Regulation 14 advises that where such a problem arises, the tour operator must find a solution to the problem. If it becomes impossible to find a solution or it is not accepted for good reason by the holidaymaker, then the Consumer 'will' be returned to their original departure point using 'equivalent' or 'comparative transport'. It also provides a discretion to travel companies to provide this assistance 'where appropriate'.
Consumers and HolidayTravelWatch take the view that repatriation is appropriate given the potential for continued or fresh illness cases; holidaymakers health is a priority!
Frank Brehany, the Consumer Director of HolidayTravelWatch states:
"I am sorry to hear of these holiday complaints and dissappointed to hear of the way and method of handling these complaints, particularly for requests to return to the UK early. There is no question that there is a serious situation here; I call upon Thomas Cook to repatriate the remaining holidaymakers from this hotel without further delay. By taking this important step it will allow for any remedial measures to take effect, so that they and the hotel can get back to the business of providing good holidays and Consumers can safely enjoy them".