Foreign holiday accidents rise as teens escape and hotel safety standards drop
The Foreign Office (FCO) has reported a marked increase in the number of British teenagers suffering accidents while on holiday abroad.
Mallorca, the Spanish island known for its party culture, saw a massive increase in hospitalisations of 132% over 2 years to March 2012. With a rise of 40% recorded by its Balearic neighbour Ibiza, the 2 statistics account for around 10 of the reported 70 Britons hospitalised worldwide each week.
The FCO has noted a recent shift in the average ages of people travelling to Mallorca and Ibiza, with more in their late teens holidaying for the first time without their parents. The rise in independent travel also means youngsters are often no longer chaperoned by tour reps.
"Young people tend to be more daring, taking part in sporting activities or renting quad bikes, and are more likely to engage in risky behaviour," said an FCO spokeswoman.
Although the FCO acknowledges that the Spanish island cases often involve British teenagers affected by drugs or alcohol, many accidents and illnesses abroad are due to poor safety and hygiene standards at some resort hotels.
As well as cases relating to youngsters, the 'Arab Spring' has seen a rise in cruise-ship visitors visiting Spain, according to the FCO report British Behaviour Abroad.
Many such tourists are older than the mainly youthful profile of the Balearics, and often have existing medical conditions not covered by travel insurance.
The minister for consular services Jeremy Browne noted the many cases in which holidaymakers have invalidated their policies: "perhaps by not declaring a pre-existing medical condition or not checking their policy covers a particular activity, such as hiring a moped," said Mr Browne. "Unfortunately they are then surprised that the Foreign Office cannot pay for their bills and flight home."
Many holidaymakers to the EU mistakenly assume that the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will cover all foreign medical costs. However, recent statistics from the insurance industry show that return from Spain in an air ambulance can cost around £30,000, while a night in a Spanish medical centre can cost over £1,000. In the Spanish islands, the cost of a rehydration drip can cost about €695.
In light of insurers' figures and the FCO report, legal experts have once again stressed the importance of "checking the fine print" of holiday policies to ensure all eventualities are covered when travelling abroad.
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