Holiday sickness claims soar

Travel insurance
Health

All-inclusive holidays taken by British holidaymakers have been on the increase in recent years, predominantly to Spain and Portugal, thanks to poor currency exchange rates and unrest in previously popular locations such as Egypt and Turkey. However, along with the boom in this kind of holiday, there has been a significant increase in the number of people claiming for gastric illnesses they have suffered while on holiday. And, inevitably, some of these claims are fraudulent.

Jet2, an airline and holiday company in the UK, has actually sent undercover investigators to Spanish resorts in an effort to gather evidence about a trend that has seen touts in Spain waiting for holidaymakers outside their resorts and encouraging them to make fraudulent claims – with reports that some even coach these tourists to tell that what to say to the doctor and resort operators when making the claim. In some cases, claims management companies in England are also encouraging holidaymakers to claim for such illnesses.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK has updated its advice regarding personal injury claims for Spain and Portugal, warning: “There have been reports of an increase in holidaymakers being encouraged to submit a claim for personal injury if they have experienced gastric illness during their stay. You should only consider pursuing a complaint or claim if you have genuinely suffered from injury or illness. If you make a false or fraudulent claim, you may face legal proceedings in the UK or Spain.”

Phil Carr, director of sales for Rock Insurance in the UK, told ITIJ: “The issue with such fraudulent sickness claims, is that they are very difficult to prove. Most hoteliers and insurance providers will typically make a payment if the customer has received medical advice and has a valid prescription. However, the true cost of these medical claims can vary significantly and the sheer scale of claims will undoubtedly have an adverse impact on claim inflation moving forward.” He went on to say that some hoteliers in Spain have even suggested this growing trend has cost their industry over £40 million in the last 18 months, and the impact on the travel insurance industry is likely to be similar. “To put this into context,” added Carr, “bogus claims for gastroenteritis have reportedly increased 700 per cent during the same time period.” In some cases, in order to make a claim, all a traveller needs is a receipt for over-the-counter diarrhoea medication – and now some pharmacies in Spain have reportedly threatened to stop selling such drugs to holidaymakers to they can’t use the receipt as evidence of illness. Carr concluded: “If this trend continues, not only will it impact the claims of the genuinely ill holidaymaker – with some resorts in Spain threatening to stop selling over-the-counter diarrhoea and gastric-related preventatives – but as costs of travel continue to rise across Europe in the wake of Brexit, we could potentially see the travel sector having to increase costs further. In addition, if the costs of holidays are increased further, optional add-ons like insurance could see travellers significantly under protected for their trip and this is a concern.”

 

This topic and others will be under discussion at ITIC Brighton – held on 18th May at the Hilton Metropole.