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Sun, Sea, Sand... And Salmonella - The Irwin Mitchell Holiday Report

Worst five holiday hotspots


As preparations for the big summer getaway get into full swing, national law firm, Irwin Mitchell, has revealed the worst five holiday hot spots.

The firm, which has the UK's largest team of lawyers helping British holidaymakers who have either been injured or fallen ill whilst abroad, has now published a list, based on the number of cases it took on in 2008, which names and shames the world's five worst destinations.

Currently topping the Irwin Mitchell complaints list is Turkey, followed by Egypt, and Bulgaria. Sharing fourth place, are the twin family favourites of mainland Spain and the Balearic island of Majorca. The list also throws up a surprise new entrant with Cape Verde, the trendy West African island archipelago, claiming fifth place.

Clive Garner is Head of Irwin Mitchell's International Travel team. He explains: "We do find that countries tend to dip in and out of the 'worst five' list. It's a cyclical thing, which can be partly attributed to holiday trends, for example a sudden rise in popularity of a particular destination, compared to previous years. However, it can also be a sign that standards may be slipping and adequate action is not being taken to address the problems in resort.

"What links most of these complaints is basic lack of hotel hygiene. We’re not talking here about people who are suffering from a mild case of 'holiday tummy', but often serious, and in some cases life threatening illnesses, such as salmonella, dysentery and legionnaires disease. It is also a matter of great concern to us that some hotels exhibit repeated problems year after year.

"Tour operators should be doing more to insist that the high standards of hygiene, which are, presumably, in place when these hotels are first inspected and listed in their brochures, are maintained for the entire tourist season.

"Unfortunately, in the past we are aware that UK tour operators have continued to send unsuspecting holidaymakers to some hotels with unresolved, serious health and hygiene problems – in some cases several years running.

Two of the worst examples of 'rogue' hotels we have dealt with are the Holiday Village Hotel in Sarigerme, Turkey (which used to be called the Pegasus Palace Hotel) and the Hotel Royal Park in Elenite, Bulgaria. Both of these hotels have suffered outbreaks of illness for at least 4 of the past 5 years."

The Irwin Mitchell 'Worst Five' Report reveals the particular problems and illnesses, which, in 2008, were responsible for each destination making it onto the firm’s list of shame.

  1. Turkey. (22% of all complaints)
    The resort of Sarigerme, alone, generated 40% of all complaints received about Turkey in 2008, with many of these relating to the Holiday Village Hotel. Cases of Salmonella and other food born bacteria were common causes of gastric illness.

    This isn't the first time that the hotel has been at the centre of an outbreak of illness. Following outbreaks of salmonella poisoning in 2005, 2006 and 2007, when the hotel was known as the Pegasus Palace, over 140 guests took legal action. UK tour operator, First Choice, has already admitted liability in respect of the earlier cases in 2005 and 2006.

  2. Egypt (21% of all complaints)
    Almost three quarters of complaints about Egyptian holidays in 2008 were about hotels located in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh.


    The dozens of cases being pursued by the law firm include claims by 15 British holidaymakers are now taking legal action after suffering severe stomach cramps, diarrhoea and vomiting at the five star Concord el Salam Sport hotel in Sharm El Sheikh last summer. Guests reported seeing cockroaches in the hotel and the smell of sewage around the complex. Almost a year on, some clients continue to suffer with ongoing symptoms as a result of the illnesses they contracted on holiday.

  3. Bulgaria (13.5% of all complaints)
    Guests staying at the all-inclusive, four-star, Royal Park Hotel in the resort of Elenite, have described finding 'stinking bedrooms' with urine soaked mattresses. There were claims that the hotel shop sold 'bottled' water which had been refilled from taps and water coolers being topped up from a hose pipe used to water the hotel gardens.

    Around 300 holidaymakers became seriously ill at the Royal Park Hotel in 2008 and a severe outbreak of dysentery was confirmed. What many unsuspecting guests did not realise was that this was the fourth time in five years that illness had hit the same hotel.

  4. Spain and Majorca (13% of all complaints) – of this figure, 60% were from mainland Spain, 34% Majorca and 6% from other Spanish island destinations

    In past years there have been a number of large outbreaks of illness including Salmonella and Campylobacter. There have also been several outbreaks of Cryptosporidium, which in many cases has been spread through contaminated hotel swimming pools.

    In 2008 hundreds of British tourists suffered severe gastric illness with diarrhoea and vomiting. In some cases hospitalisation and long-term illness has followed.

  5. Cape Verde (5% of all complaints)

Irwin Mitchell is currently investigating complaints from more than 120 holidaymakers who stayed at the four-star Riu Garopa and Riu Funana Hotels in 2008. The bacterial infection, Shigella, which is often spread as a result of salads and vegetables being prepared in contaminated water, was pinpointed as the cause in many cases.

Dishonourable mentions:

Not quite making it onto the 'worst five' list, but still generating a sizeable number of complaints and so worthy of mention, are cruises with 4.5% of complaints, the Dominican Republic with 3.5% and troubled Mexico with 3%.

Clive Garner advises: "If you are faced with illness or other serious 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 addressed, you should write to the tour operator within 28 days of returning to the UK and seek follow up medical treatment for any illness you have suffered. If your complaint is not satisfactorily resolves at this stage, you may wish to take legal advice from a solicitor specialising in foreign personal injury claims."