Have Tour Operators gone too far in dismissing genuine complaints of Sickness?
For many years I worked overseas, knowing all too well how many people become sick through over indulgence, be it from heat, lack of water, too much or just changes in products used in the foods (Think rich and heavy oils used in cooking), or simply from handling local money – in India for example, I would always use anti-bacterial hand cleanser after handling cash.
Most cases of sickness go without too many issues, a bit of a cramp and discomfort, nothing a little rest doesn’t cure.
Because of my exposure to what happens overseas, especially in an All Inclusive, it has always made my blood boil when I see people asking at stands – ‘were you sick on holiday?’ or radio adverts advertising that ‘Sickness is not part of an All Inclusive holiday’.
Its not that I don’t agree that people should report instances in order to encourage better standards and to investigate poor practise, but I really don’t like that in encourages everyone to make compensation claims for any kind of sickness.
But here now is the problem. With tour operators fighting back over false claims of holiday sickness and with cases going to court resulting in those making fraudulent claims sometimes being jailed, it now appears that the tour operator has gone full swing and now simply ignore any report of sickness whatsoever – knowing that most people will just have to accept it and will give up fighting or complaining.
As many of my readers will know, I travel a fair bit, nicknamed Judith Chalmers due to the number of holidays and breaks that I take every year. I have had cases of a dodgy belly in Aswan, Juresh and Mumbai, but nothing compares to the sickness I recently had while staying at a TUI UK hotel in Puerto Vallarta.
2 days bedridden with extreme sickness on the hour every hour, despite having nothing left to bring up. The fever and shivers meant I did not dare leave the room for fear of another episode of sickness.
I had tried to find the rep when the sickness first started with my partner (Who became Ill First), but he wasn’t on duty when he should have been. So I finally decided to contact TUI via their own app and the ’24/7 Holiday Line’ – apt name as it did take them the 24 hours to reply, and that was simply to ask if I had seen the rep.
I had already explained that he wasn’t there and wasn’t then due back until after we departed in a few day, so they gave me a telephone number to complain when back in the UK. No questions to how we were, what the sickness consisted of or any compassion in the slightest – more as if they didn’t want to know and expected it to just disappear.
I had to speak to the hotel manager and request lots of extra bathroom tissue and to advise them of issues we had found. We had brown water for a day from the bathroom taps and shower, due to a faulty pump (Possibly meaning that the water was contaminated with dirty water?). Plastic glasses were collected around the pool and rinsed under a cold tap (there was no hot water in that area of the hotel for nearly three days due to the faulty pump) and then re-used. Raw chicken had been served up twice to me in the buffet and on another occasion a member of staff that was cooking fish at a fish station, wasn’t allowed to hand it out until another member of staff had checked that it was cooked.
After explaining to the manager about what had occurred and the sickness myself and my partner were suffering, I was offered free room service – which I can assure you I did not use once as eating was the last thing on my mind and I had nothing for the remainder of the stay.
We were the allowed to keep our room until the time of departure, which was a life saver as I was unable to sit in any heat without becoming quite ill again. However I was disappointed not to see them at least offering anti-bacterial hand cleanser upon entry to the buffet to other guests.
At the airport I advised the rep and was told ‘Yeah, there is lots of sickness about’ – thanks for that. At this point my only concern was making it home without being sick on the flight.
On my return I did as I was told and contacted TUI with my issues – 29 days later I received a standard response.
Well firstly they do not give out questionnaires on-board flights anymore – So maybe they need to update this ‘Standard Excuse’
Not one of the actual issues raised were addressed.
Now after two months they tell me that they have investigated, according to the Data Subject Request that I have received, this investigation was to check if the resort had uploaded a SAR (Sickness / Accident in Resort Form). Which due to the fact that the rep wasn’t turning up to his visits so I reported via the TUI App directly to them, that have this marked at ‘Not Reported in Resort’
This in turn means that my case does not ‘Meet Enough Points to Warrant Further Action’
What this actually means, is that they don’t see the point in investigating the issues that were causing people to become ill at the hotel. And I say ‘people’, as on the same flight to and from resort were 3 other couples staying at the same hotel as us, for the same duration – details that TUI can access. Two of these couples told us on the way home that they had the same sickness as us during the same time, so ours was not isolated.
My fears are that with the clamp down of false sickness claims – tour operators are now washing their hands of ALL responsibility to the genuine customers that are suffering at the hands of bad hygiene that is meant to ensured under the package holiday regulations.
I have never had to complain and after 8 years of working for TUI previously, it was the last thing that I wanted to do. I feel however that the stress being caused to genuine cases like mine, needs to be highlighted. I have received a number of DM’s and emails following my first piece on my trip to Puerto Vallarta and the sickness mentioned, all people that have had similar situations dismissed.
With TUI refusing to supply me with details of any actual investigation between themselves, the resort and the hotel, as set out in a data subject request over a month ago, I can only assume that they have never investigated and do not see the point in doing so, meanwhile others could be getting ill that shouldn’t have to.
I have now forward all the details to ABTA for them to investigate fully and can only hope that as a result, a proper investigation is carried out and these bad practises are halted for future travellers, so they can fully enjoy a trip to what should have been a stunning destination and a holiday to remember for very different reasons.
TUI are refusing to look at the complaint via ABTA which is optional to them.
For years I worked for this company and did my best by them – I was once made to go to the room of a dead guest and look after the police / ambulance by them. At that time they offered me no support in the aftermath of this event – I guess I should have known that they care for nothing but profit!