A deluge of fake and exaggerated gastric illness claims “is not a victimless crime”, Hays Travel managing director John Hays told the group’s annual Independence Group conference.

He told delegates his original view was that the issue was mostly a matter for the big tour operators like Thomas Cook, Tui and Jet2holidays.

However he said the group had seen a significant increase in premiums quoted when it came to renew its public liability and professional indemnity insurance cover last month.

He said when agents sell Flight Plus under the Hays Atol holidays they are responsible for things that go wrong on the holiday.

Hays said the increase in premiums was able eventually negotiate was “in the hundreds of thousands of pounds”, double the previous years.

He accused the claims management companies behind claim numbers increasing by an average of 500% for Abta members “of taking money out of the industry, and it’s hurting and harming all of us”.

“We need to clamp down on this, and certainly the claims companies advertising to make people make these dodgy claims,” Hays said.

Travel Weekly has been campaigning for a change in the law since April to close a loophole that claims management firms are exploiting which means there is no limit on the value of claims for incidents that happen overseas.