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Tourism chiefs winning the war against epidemic of fake sickness claims? 

A multi-pronged attack on fake sickness claims among UK holidaymakers appears to be curing the bug, according to research by the Travel Market London.

The number of holiday-makers who have been approached by a claims firm either during or after their holiday is lower than expected, according to the event’s Industry Report.

In 2016, Spanish hoteliers said fake sickness claims from British guests were costing them around €60 million per annum and in the past year, the industry and the Government has been working hard to stop unscrupulous claims firms targeting travellers.

Their approach has included targeting claims companies touting for business in resort; closing legal loopholes and hiring undercover agents to help sift out false claims – and it seems to be working.

The World Travel Market London 2017 Industry Report reveals over nine in ten Brits have never been contacted by a fake-sickness claims company, although six per cent said they have been approached by a claims company while on holiday and seven per cent have been targeted since returning. The vast majority of industry executives (75%) who took part in the research for the report say fake sickness claims have not impacted their business. However, 22% said the problem had some impact, while three per cent said fake sickness claims had a significant impact over the past year.

The holiday bug scams have been more prevalent in Spain than anywhere else and last year the UK Foreign Office warned holidaymakers about rising numbers of ‘claims touts’ in popular Spanish resorts. The warning was then extended to travellers to Portugal and there have been reports of such activity in parts of Greece.

Earlier this year, ABTA launched a #StopSickness-Scams campaign and, in summer 2017, a judge recommended there should be a restriction on the amount of legal fees that can be charged by lawyers representing claims companies.

Jet2holidays hired undercover detectives in resorts to sniff out bogus-claim touts. In one case, it released copies of the claimants’ bar bill to the media, which showed they carried on drinking heavily on the days they were ‘sick’.

A series of high-profile Crown Court cases brought by Thomas Cook and other operators in summer 2017 included a Liverpool family who falsely claimed £52,000 and another couple who were described by a judge as ‘fundamentally dishonest’ and ordered to pay nearly £4,000 in costs.

In another incident, the five-star Caldera Palace Hotel in Crete counter-sued a British couple for £170,000 for damage to its reputation after falsely claiming illness.

WTM London’s Paul Nelson, said: “Fake sickness claims by unscrupulous holidaymakers, encouraged by claims firms, give Brits a bad name and make things worse for those who genuinely fall ill abroad.”

“Some Spanish hoteliers have threatened to close their doors to British customers, while there are also warnings holiday prices could go up because of fake claims.”

“Our research shows 6% of Brits have been contacted by a claims firm while on holiday and 7% since returning; while 25% of industry executives say fake sickness claims have impacted their business over the past year, so we know this practice is still prevalent.”

“However, the good news is that nine out of 10 holiday-makers haven’t been contacted by claims firms, while 75% of industry executives say fake sickness scams have not impacted their business. This shows that the fake sickness phenomenon is no longer an epidemic.” “By tackling it together, the travel industry and the Government are winning the fight against fake sickness scams.”