A flood of allegedly unsubstantiated claims against hoteliers by British holidaymakers, many for minor ailments, could cost the Spanish accommodation sector millions of euros this year according to a leading trade group. David Ing reports
The prediction comes from Antonio Mayor, president of the hoteliers’ association for one of the country’s most popular destinations, Benidorm and the Costa Blanca (Hosbec). He said the majority of claims are being presented ‘without proof’ when the holidaymakers get back to the UK, and that it is estimated they could cost member hoteliers in their region alone – the Comunitat Valenciana – as much as €6 million.
The practice has become especially serious this year in the main resort of Benidorm, where it is reportedly being fomented by people Mayor called ‘vulture lawyers’, who ‘wander through the hotels, briefcase in hand, encouraging guests to claim for diarrhoea, for example’.
Their companies have helped holidaymakers claim damages in court against the British tour operators who arranged their package holidays. The operators in turn deducted this from the payments they made to the hoteliers.
Mayor, who runs his own hotel chain on the Costa Blanca, has called on the British travel trade to join them in helping ‘fight together this injustice’.
At a recent meeting in London, the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) had acknowledged to a delegation of Spanish hoteliers that there had been a big surge in such claims this year, ‘perhaps seven times that of last year’. He blamed the increase on so-called ‘claim farms’, heavily-marketed legal services that ‘encourage the lodging of thousands of claims’, some of which ‘cover the cost of the holiday several times over’.
Most of the complaints were linked to relatively minor illnesses, such as stomach ailments, after guests supposedly ate in hotel restaurants.
“Yet there is usually no proof that they didn’t get the problem from eating in a restaurant across the road,” said Mayor, “or just from suffering from a hangover.”