Official figures released as part of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) British Behaviour Abroad 2013 report show that consular staff offered assistance to more than 19,000 tourists in need in 2012/13. Although the overall total assistance figures showed a slight drop of three per cent compared to last year, certain countries saw a significant increase in the number of British tourists requesting consular assistance.
Spain and the US saw high numbers of cases, albeit around the same level as previous years, while countries including India, the Philippines and the UAE witnessed an increase in the number of arrests and hospitalisations of British tourists. The FCO said in response to the figures that they ‘demonstrate the importance for travellers to respect local laws and customs and take out comprehensive travel insurance’. The Philippines was the country in which Britons were most likely to require assistance, followed by Thailand and then Pakistan. These figures were calculated by taking the number of assistance cases handled and dividing them by the number of visitors and British residents in the country.
When it came to hospitalisations, several consulates received higher than usual numbers of requests for help over the past year, in particular Thailand, the UAE, Portugal, Australia and India. A mix of cases were reported by consular staff, although the report notes than many involved older expatriates or tourists with pre-existing medical conditions getting into difficulty and requiring treatment after arriving in the country. Thailand saw a 31-per-cent increase in hospitalisations and an equally high increase in deaths in the county. Factors that were attributed to the increase included road traffic accidents, especially involving young travellers on mopeds, as well as an ageing expatriate population. Spain, though, continues to be the country with the highest number of British hospitalisations, with 899 such cases recorded by the consulate. The report said: “Consular staff have been working more closely with local hospitals to make them more aware of the types of cases where the FCO can add value. FCO staff have also strengthened ties with charities who support British nationals in less critical situations, which allows the FCO to focus on the most vulnerable.”
More statistics contained within the report show that 1,492 British nationals died in Spain last year, 820 died in France and 516 died in Germany. Proportionally, though, Britons are more likely to die in the Philippines than in any other country – this is due to the large number of elderly expatriates that live in the Philippines, which also account for most of the hospitalisation cases; relatively few tourists die or are hospitalised while visiting the country.
Concerning arrests of Britons abroad, the report showed that arrests for drug offences dropped to their lowest level for four years, with a decrease of 34 per cent since 2009/10; while general arrests and detentions showed a 21-per-cent drop over the same period. Spain, in particular, has seen a significant decrease in arrests, detentions and hospitalisations – the FCO credits this decrease to local initiatives involving consular staff, police and hospital authorities. However, the number of reported rape and sexual assault cases increased by 10 per cent compared to 2011/12. The three countries in which the largest number of such cases was reported were Spain, Turkey and Greece.
Mark Simmonds, FCO Minister, said: “I am deeply concerned to see an increase in the number of reported rape and sexual assault cases involving British people. The priority for our staff is the safety and wellbeing of British travellers and we will continue to work, including with other governments and tour operators, to help prevent further cases and provide all possible support for victims.” He added: “I encourage all British travellers to do everything they can to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip by taking out comprehensive travel insurance and researching their destination.”