Spanish hoteliers say they are not willing to compensate blackmail. CEHAT the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodation (Confederación Española de Hoteles y Alojamientos Turísticos) have this week warned that their members and associates will not pay false claims that come from the United Kingdom and will prosecute “all defrauders before the Spanish courts”, said the secretary general of the Spanish confederation, Ramón Estalella.
The hotel association said that it will prosecute all those who partake in claim scams once sufficient evidence has been collected as happened recently over on Tenerife at the aparthotel La Ponderosa in Adeje.
In a meeting between the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) and federations from the main tourist areas affected – Balearics, Canary Islands, Costa del Sol and Benidorm – strong measures have been announced in dealing with any “criminal network” that hides behind companies and lawyers trying to defraud the sector of an estimated €60 million a year, according to the calculations of the Spanish hotel confederation.
The first cases of fraudulent claims were detected last year, without any action having been taken to minimize the number of claims, employers have decided to meet with British travel agents themselves.
It has been estimated that more than 90% of the claims received by tour operators are fraudulent. And the forecasts predict a summer campaign 2017 that could be even more complicated. CEHAT say that these scams seriously affect hotel establishments, saying that “If they were true, a global health alert would have been declared” but instead the numbers of associated cases registered by health authorities in the destinations themselves are still in fact falling, due to better levels of quality, hygiene and safety within the Spanish hotel industry .
British officials have acknowledged, “it is cheaper to deal with the claim at the time” than to try to disprove it later. Consequently it makes economic sense to them not to fight claims that appear like they could be true.
For the tour operators, of course, it is cheaper: in the end they can use their dominant position in the market to impose contracts through which the hoteliers become economically responsible for all types of claims, applying pressure on the hoteliers to shoulder the costs, despite there being no clear evidence of wrong doing or bad practice.
British laws to increase fines
The British government have said that they are considering tightening laws and fines so as to avoid false allegations of food poisoning from tourists after their holidays in the Canaries and other parts of Spain, said Regional Tourism Minister María Teresa Lorenzo.
Speaking to reporters, Lorenzo pointed out that the problem of false claims and allegations has been followed “very closely by the Canary Islands’ Government”, which has been in contact with British authorities and their ambassador in Spain, Simon Manley, with whom she and the Canary Islands’ president, Fernando Clavijo, met recently.
This problem has also been addressed at tourist fairs with all operators, because it is an issue that concerns not only the Canary Islands but also other destinations on the Mediterranean coast and the Balearic Islands.
The minister said that this is a matter relating to British legislation, so the British Government is considering increases in penalties to curb the rise in false allegations.
Lorenzo has said that she also maintains contact with hoteliers who have been advised, among other measures, to register and record any health problems that their clients may suffer in order to be able to defend themselves against such complaints.
Spanish hotels face millions of euros worth of claims in the UK for alleged food poisoning, many of which they consider false, from clients encouraged by British firms of “Pirate” lawyers who have specialized in promoting this type of claim.
The Minister for Tourism of the Canarian Regional Government made her statements at a meeting she held with her counterparts from the cabildos to promote channels of collaboration between public administrations with competence in the field.
Spanish Government delegate to the Canary Islands, Mercedes Roldós, announced last February that the General State Administration, in collaboration with the National Police and Civil Guard, are already taking necessary measures to avoid the alleged fraudulent claims for food poisoning by tourists of British origin, after she met with representatives of the Federation of Employers of Hospitality and Tourism of Las Palmas (FEHT), looking to address various issues related to the sector, including the alleged increase in this type of fraudulent practice.
The problem came to light last year after “pirate” law firms were discovered to be actively encouraging British tourists to make false claims, on the promise that they could recoup the total cost of their holiday, by following simple steps to feign having suffered food poisoning or other similar afflictions while on holiday. In some cases these firms were found to be driving around holiday resort areas in what looked like an ambulance, handing out leaflets encouraging claims from holiday makers, on the basis that there was very little a hotelier could do to defend themselves.
By simply submitting a pharmacy receipt for the purchase of an anti-diarrheal medication it has been possible for British tourists to claim large amounts of compensation for having allegedly fallen ill during a holiday. Canarian hotel owners, warned last year of a 700% increase in fraudulent claims in 2016.
The method is not new, but last year a sudden increase in proliferation of pirate lawyers or Claim Farmers, who encourage English tourists to file false allegations for alleged cases of food poising, was detected. With British tourism continuing to increase on Gran Canaria and elsewhere, Spain is readying itself for more fraudulent activity, which of course only makes it harder for anyone who might actually find themselves with a legitimate reason to complain.
Anyone who does have problems while on holiday should ensure that their Holiday Rep is informed as early as possible and that their situation is properly recorded by the hotel reception staff at the time. Failure to properly report issues, may make it much harder to make claims later.