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Sun, Sea, Sand...And Salmonella - The Irwin Mitchell Holiday Report – Worst Five Holiday Hotspots

Holiday Illness Abroad


As the big summer getaway gets into full swing, some unfortunate holidaymakers could find that their dream destination is not everything the travel brochures would have them believe.

The UK's largest travel law team at law firm, Irwin Mitchell, have revealed the worst five holiday hot spots, which could make uneasy reading for anyone who has already booked their hard-earned trip abroad.

Irwin Mitchell's travel law specialists, who help British holidaymakers who have either been injured or fallen ill whilst abroad, are currently acting in around 8,000 illness cases against various tour operators and receive thousands of new claims every year.

It has now published a list which names and shames the world's five worst destinations by the number of new enquiries it has received since last summer.

Currently topping the complaints list is the Dominican Republic, followed by Egypt, Tunisia and the Maldives. The list also throws up a surprise with the Island of Cuba, claiming fifth place.

Clive Garner is Head of Irwin Mitchell's travel law Group. He explains: "We do find that countries tend to dip in and out of the 'worst five' list. This can be partly attributed to holiday trends but can also be a sign that standards may be slipping and adequate action is not being taken to address the problems in resort.

"Frustratingly, what links most of these illness complaints is basic lack of hygiene. Time and again we find that the same public health issues, such as poor food preparation and storage and unclean swimming pools, are responsible for the majority of illness cases we handle.

"Tour operators should be doing more to insist that the high standards of hygiene, health and safety which are, presumably, in place when these hotels are first inspected and listed in their brochures, are maintained for the entire tourist season. Once a particular problem is identified with a specific hotel or resort we would also like to see tour operators taking prompt action, so that further holidaymakers do not continue to be sent there, until remedial action has been taken."

1. Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is often marketed as a dream destination and is selected by many couples as a wedding destination.

Unfortunately dreams often fail to become reality with many instances illness reported. Although efforts have been made to clean up the Dominican Republic since mass outbreaks of illness in the late 1990s the recent increase in illness cases over the last 10 months is causing concern.

The team at Irwin Mitchell is currently investigating complaints after more than one thousand holidaymakers staying at the Bahia Principe hotel, in the resort of San Juan, were struck down with gastric illness. Guests complained of cockroaches in the restaurant and food that was poorly cooked and lukewarm.

The local medical clinic was overwhelmed by the number of British tourists seeking emergency treatment as guests 'dropped like flies' during the outbreak at the hotel.

Holiday makers also described ambulances as a regular feature at the hotel as a number of guests were hospitalised in the resort, with some requiring hospital treatment in the UK.

A recent admission of liability from Thomas Cook/My Travel is likely to result in millions of pounds being paid out to British holidaymakers who travelled to the hotel in August 2007.

This outbreak currently makes the Dominican Republic the top hot-spot for illness.


One of those affected at the hotel was Sharon Oxford (45) from Tamworth in the Midlands. Mrs Oxford travelled to the Hotel Bahia Principe in August 2007 with her husband, Andrew (43) and twins Jack and Lydia (10).

Within a few days of arriving at the hotel the whole family had fallen ill with severe stomach cramps, diarrhoea and vomiting. Upon returning to the UK the family visited their GP and Mrs Oxford was diagnosed with the parasite Giardia.

Mrs Oxford stated: "All of us continue to suffer from the symptoms of the illness we suffered and I am really pleased that Thomas Cook/My Travel have finally admitted that they are liable for what happened to me and my family. We had such an awful time."

Irwin Mitchell Solicitors are also currently acting for clients who stayed as guests at hotels in the Dominican Republic during 2007/8 including:

  • Melia Caribe
  • Grand Paradise
  • Ocean Sands Golf and Beach Resort
  • Casa Marina Reef
  • Riu Mambo
  • Sun Royale
  • Grand Paladium Bavaro
  • Occidental Grand Flamenco
  • Gran Bahia, Punta Cana Bavaro
  • Gran Bahia, San Juan
  • Gran Bahia, El Portillo
  • Gran Bahia, Cayo Levantado, Samana
  • Bahia Principe, San Juan

2. Egypt

This is a popular destination with holidaymakers wanting to see the sites and sounds of ancient Egypt, participate in a relaxing cruise along the Nile or experience scuba diving in the Red Sea.

Unfortunately from our experience it has now become one of the top hot spots for holidaymakers catching serious food borne illnesses including e-coli 0157, campylobacter and salmonella.


12 holidaymakers are taking legal action against their tour operators after they claim their holidays to Egypt were ruined when they suffered severe gastric illness at a hotel which was still under construction.

Amongst those affected was Maurice Hemingway (69) his wife Janet (57), daughter Julie (26) and his granddaughter Leigh (7) who all travelled on an all-inclusive Holiday Village to the Holiday Village hotel in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El Sheik in June 2007. A trip which was booked through First Choice Holidays and Flights Limited.

Apart from Leigh all members of the family became ill, suffering from severe stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea during their two week stay.

The family from Blackpool in Lancashire, claim that despite much of the hotel and its amenities being under construction when they arrived, they were in receipt of a letter from First Choice before their departure stating that "all facilities are open and ready for you and your family's enjoyment with the exception of the multi-purpose area and the tennis courts."

Mr Hemingway explained: "Upon receipt of the letter from First Choice, I contacted Customer services and was reassured that this was correct. This was not true. There were no shops, no cinema, no indoor entertainment, no beach showers... The list is endless. The first week there was no beach bar. On the second week a member of staff was given a bucket of ice and drinks and this was classed as the beach bar."

Mr Hemingway was offered 10% of his holiday cost as a cash refund by First Choice or 20% of his holiday cash in holiday vouchers which he declined.

Irwin Mitchell Solicitors are also currently acting for clients who stayed as guests at hotels in Egypt in 2007/8 including:

  • Holiday Village
  • Conrad Hotel
  • Movenpick Hotel
  • Grand Madaki
  • Crowne Plaza
  • Calimera Royal Moderna

3. Tunisia

Tunisia is a destination chosen by couples and families alike with British holidaymakers taking advantage of the good weather and all-inclusive deals on offer. Unfortunately a number of holidaymakers, including young children have recently returned to England suffering from serious gastric illness some of which have been confirmed as Salmonella, allegedly due to the poor hygiene conditions in a number of hotels frequented by Brits.


5 families are currently taking legal action after staying at the Houda Golf and Beach Club Hotel in Tunisia. Those taking legal action include a family of 4 from Chesterfield, Derbyshire, who all fell ill with gastric related symptoms.

Mrs Jennifer Walker (48) and her husband, Stephen (44) with their two children Lydia (11) and Kyle (13) all became ill with gastric-related symptoms of diarrhoea, stomach cramps, high temperature, vomiting and headaches. They reported their illness to the Tour Representative but, they claim, nothing was done to help them.

The families had numerous complaints about the holiday including the standard of the food which they described as very poor, not served at the correct temperature and left uncovered for long periods of time. They also noticed birds in the eating areas and cats dwelling by the pool and outside eating areas.

The family has been saving for this holiday for two years. Mrs Walker was extremely disappointed to notice that upon arrival at the hotel it was double the size advertised by their tour operator First Choice, who they are now taking the action against. This was important to Mrs Walker as her son Kyle suffers with a form of autism and overcrowding and large amounts of people can panic him.

Mrs Walker commented: "What should have been a dream holiday turned out to be a nightmare. It was a disaster from start to finish, it took 4 attempts to find a room as every room we were given was already occupied. The illness just made things so much worse. When I returned to the UK I visited my doctor and was subsequently diagnosed with the bacterial infection Campylobacter, and had to remain off work for a week."

Irwin Mitchell Solicitors are also currently investigating Claims for guests who stayed during 2007/8 at a number of hotels in Tunisia including:-

  • El Medhi
  • Shahara Beach
  • Vincci Hotel
  • Houda Beach

4. Maldives

The Islands of the Maldives are famous for their beautiful beaches and tranquil atmosphere, however illnesses have turned many holidays into nightmares for Brits.

A luxury winter break to the Maldives in February/March 2008 was ruined for a group of British holidaymakers who suffered severe gastric illness at the Huduranfushi Island Resort in the Maldives.

At least 4 couples have reported suffering from illness after staying at the 4 Star Huduranfushi Island Resort along with other problems with the resort including power cuts and the water at the hotel being cut off.

The Huduranfushi Island resort has recently been refurbished and changed its name from the Lohifushi.


Mark (42) and Julia Pooler (44) from Trowbridge, travelled with Thomson Holidays (TUI) to the Hurduranfushi Island Resort in the Maldives hoping for a luxurious break to celebrate their 25th Wedding anniversary. This holiday was also a celebration after Mr Pooler had a recent Cancer scare, he received the all-clear and the couple wanted to celebrate his good news.

However their holiday was ruined when they both fell ill with diarrhoea, severe abdominal pain and vomiting only a few days after arriving. Their symptoms became so severe that the couple had to be admitted to hospital for intense medical treatment.

Mrs Pooler said: "We are now glad to be back in the UK, but have not yet recovered from our symptoms. The food at the hotel appeared to be left uncovered with new food simply being added to existing food. We were also shocked to find flies around the restaurant, landing on the food."

Irwin Mitchell Solicitors are also acting for clients who stayed at various hotels in the Maldives during 2007/8 including:-

  • Huduranfushi
  • Cinamon Resort
  • One and Only Hotel – Kanuhura
  • Dhonveli Island Hotel and Spa

5. Cuba

Cuba is an increasingly popular destination for British Tourists with a range of All-Inclusive resorts on offer snatching the attention of honeymooners, couples and now families.

Recently Irwin Mitchell Solicitors have received reports of a large outbreak of illness at the Gran Caribe Hotel in Cavos where guests have reported poor hygiene standards. In particular guests have described chicken that was served pink, raw meat and fish were reported to have been stored without ice to keep them cold and were seen placed in close proximity to heaters.


Tracy and Kevin Redhead, together with 16-year-old daughter, Janine, flew out to the resort of Cavos in Cuba on 3rd July, for a two-week holiday, staying at the Gran Caribe Club.

Both Kevin and Janine suffered gastric illness during the holiday. From the third day of his holiday Kevin became so ill that he required medical assistance from the hotel's doctor.

Tracy Redhead said: "I felt I was very lucky to escape the illness my husband and daughter suffered. Whilst we were there a number of other holidaymakers at our hotel were also taken ill."

Clive Garner adds: "If you are faced with difficulties in resort it is important to complain as soon as possible to the local holiday rep. Make sure you complete a written complaint form and keep a copy. Take photographs and videos to support your complaint and swap contact details with other holidaymakers who have suffered similar problems. If you seek medical help whilst abroad, make sure you get a copy of the doctor's report. If your complaint is not adequately dealt with you should follow up medical treatment for any illness you have suffered and consult a specialist travel litigation Solicitor as soon as possible."

Irwin Mitchell Solicitors are also currently acting for guests who stayed at hotels in Cuba during 2007/8 including:-

  • Grand Caribe Cojimar
  • Blau Colonial Hotel
  • Iberostar Tropical