Majorcan hotelier hopes UK industry efforts to tackle bogus sickness claims will succeed. Ben Ireland reports
A hotelier in Majorca has spoken of his surprise at a dramatic surge in claims for illness from British clients at his property.
Sebastián Darder, general manager of the 653-room Sol Palmanova, has seen the number of claims rocket from just seven at the end of 2016 to 281 today.
On average, hotels in Majorca have reported a 700% increase in claims over the past two years.
Asked if anything had changed in terms of catering facilities at his hotel, he said: “Nothing. We serve the same type of food and we have the same kitchens and staff.
“And we are buying all our meat, fish, fruits, pastries etc from the same suppliers.”
Brits make up 78% of guests at the Sol Palmanova and Darder said he was in no doubt the illness claims explosion was an exclusively British phenomenon.
“The majority of our guests are British, the rest come from other European countries and we haven’t received any complaints from them. It’s a very, very big surprise,” he said.
The Sol Palmanova is currently in talks with UK operators about reducing its liability, Darder said.
“We have started a negotiation with the tour operators for the modification of contracts by introducing clauses to limit the responsibility of the hotel,” he said.
Among the new terms being considered are clauses that reduce hotel liability for illness not reported to the hotel during the stay and claims not supported by a full medical report.
The hotel also wants to see the issue of claims liability come under the jurisdiction of Spanish law.
Despite the scale of the problem, Darder said he was hopeful the situation could be resolved so his hotel can keep selling to UK guests.
“We understand through the Spanish and British authorities that they will do their best to stop as quickly as possible these false claims,” he said. “And, of course, we hope they will find out who the claims management companies and immoral lawyers are and bring them to court.
“For many years we have loved having British guests and we don’t want that to change.
“This is a problem with immoral tourists, not all British visitors.
We believe in the professionalism of British tour operators and British travel agencies and Abta.”
Recent publicity has raised the issue among British guests, said Darder, many of whom are mystified that fellow Brits are responsible for so many fake claims.
And Darder said UK operators are now working closely with hotel suppliers to address the issue in ways they had not been in the past.
“Now they are cooperating with us and with the authorities because this has become a big fraud involving criminal networks,” he said.
“We spoke with them and they recognise we are going about this in the right way and they are helping us in this matter.”
Hotels in Majorca as well as insurance firms, hospitals, Spanish police and the British consulate have met to discuss the issue, Darder added.
Having signed to support Travel Weekly’s Fight Fake Claims Darder said: “We are very pleased Travel Weekly has launched this campaign and thank you very much for your help.”
Hotels demand changes to contracts with UK operators
Hotels in destinations targeted for gastric illness by UK claims management companies are insisting on changes to tour operator contracts for 2018 to limit their liability.
Usually, operators include a clause in contracts placing unlimited liability on hotels for any issues that arise at the property and are the responsibility of the hotel.
Under the EU Package Travel Directive, tour operators are legally responsible for the product but contracts are drawn up to protect them from issues outside of their control.
However, a rise in sickness claims over the last two years is seeing hotels push back on terms being set for 2018.
Amid the prospect that this summer could see another deluge of claims, and with customers allowed three years to submit a claim, overseas hoteliers are facing an unknown and potentially huge liability.
As a result, they are coming under pressure from insurers to reduce their exposure either by stopping selling to UK customers, withdrawing all-inclusive deals or raising prices.
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