TUI and Holiday Illness in Mexico
The Law Of… One of the UK's Largest Tour Operator's
In recent years, our travel law team has received a large number of enquiries from holidaymakers who have been affected by holiday illness in Mexico. One of the largest tour operators advertising all-inclusive package holidays to Mexico is TUI, and in this article, we explore how they've approached the health risks facing British tourists, including problems with Cyclospora and what you can do if you're affected.
Repeated Problems with Cyclospora in the Riviera Maya
In our experience, we find that some hotels seem to be plagued by a food poisoning pathogen every holiday season, but what's happening in the Riviera Maya region of Mexico is somewhat different. For the past 3 years, we've received reports of the same pathogen affecting the guests of hotels throughout the region.
The Cyclospora parasite can result in symptoms that can include diarrhoea, nausea, fatigue and abdominal discomfort such as cramping, bloating and increased gas, enough to put a notable dent in your holiday enjoyment.
Even though there has been coverage in the press and reports sent out by government bodies, TUI-owned tour operators First Choice and Thomson (who have recently rebranded to simply to TUI) continued to send holidaymakers to destinations where it's known there are problems with Cyclospora.
Public Health England Comment on Cyclospora in Mexico
One of the government bodies to comment on problems with holiday illness is Public Health England (PHE), who has reported of the outbreaks in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Concerningly, these reports have been made freely available through Eurosurveillance in 2015 and 2017, as well as directly on the gov.uk website.
Despite these warnings, TUI has continued to send holidaymakers to destinations where the risk of contracting a holiday ruining illness is high.
TUI Waited Until Guests Arrived to Warn Them
In addition to not being made aware of the potential risks at the time of booking their holiday, holidaymakers have informed us that TUI didn't advise them of a potential outbreak until they had arrived at their resort, presenting them with a letter to inform them of the situation upon their arrival.
Financially, changing hotels at this stage may be practically impossible for some families due to the associated costs with changing hotels at such a late stage, with some holidaymakers reporting that this can cost the equivalent of an entire holiday.
This lack of communication could arguably be easily rectified. For example, TUI could follow the example that rival tour operator Virgin Holidays has set by making a Latest Travel Updates which informs prospective holidaymakers of any known issues at their resorts, and providing contact details for a dedicated Customer Service Team in the event that they're affected.
How to Reduce the Risk of Illness Before and After Booking
One way to reduce the risk of booking a holiday to a destination that may put your family's health at risk is to talk to ask your tour operator specific questions before booking. For instance, you could ask them if there are any current or historical problems with the resorts that you're interested in. It's unlikely that they'll be dishonest with you because if they don't advise you on a known issue when asking about it and you get sick, you could argue that they mis-sold your holiday.
If you have booked a package holiday but still want to inquire about possible health problems before travelling, you are entitled to ask companies such as TUI to share details of their supply contracts. These contracts should reveal what health and safety checks and inspections have been carried out, and what the results of these checks were.
While this might seem excessive, your tour operator is obliged to answer such enquiries, and by doing your research, you'll have more information to base your assessment on. These contracts may also be beneficial in the event that you need to make a compensation claim, as they may highlight inconsistencies in reports at your hotel.
Why Cyclospora is a Problem for TUI
Cyclospora is a parasite that can be found in water that has been contaminated with human faecal matter. It can attach itself to different types of produce, and once it has attached itself, it can be very difficult to remove, particularly when it comes to herbs, fruits and vegetables intended to be served uncooked or unpeeled.
Because Cyclospora is so difficult to eradicate, your tour operator has a responsibility to ensure that they adequately investigate the supply lines of every hotel they offer as part of an all-inclusive package holiday, ensuring that they aren't just reliable, but are supplying produce that is fit for human consumption.
TUI is responsible for making such provisions due to a section of The Package Travel Regulations 1992 that says that they must take reasonable steps to prevent you from coming to harm on holiday, including any services provided to you under your contract with them. This includes any third party suppliers that your hotel might use to provide you with all-inclusive meals and drinks.
If they fail to do this, they could be seen as being in breach of contract, which is why you are able to pursue a compensation claim against them if you're sick on holiday.
Steps to consider if you believe you have Cyclospora on holiday
If you have reason to believe that you have contracted Cyclospora, notably if you exhibit stomach illness symptoms while staying at a hotel in an area known to be affected by Cyclospora outbreaks, it's advisable to notify your holiday rep and hotelier. They should be able to make the necessary provisions, but it's advisable to see a medical practitioner.
If it's diagnosed, Cyclospora is treatable with a specific type of antibiotics. To receive an accurate diagnosis, you may need to specifically request a medical practitioner tests you for Cyclospora, but once you do and receive the appropriate treatment, you should find that you make a far speedier recovery than you would by self-medicating or waiting for your condition to improve.
By receiving a diagnosis, you'll also have medical evidence of the pathogen that caused your condition, something which can be invaluable in the event that you choose to make a compensation claim.
Speak to a Travel Law Specialist
Tour operators such as TUI have been known to make offers of compensation, but we often find that these are for less than what affected holidaymakers are entitled to. We recommend speaking to a member of our travel law team before accepting an offer.
We can provide you with a free consultation, during which we can assess your case and advise you on whether we feel the offer you have received is adequate. We can also advise you of whether you should consider pursuing the matter through an alternative route of arbitration, or if we feel that instructing us to represent you on a 'no win no fee' basis is the most beneficial option.
There's no obligation to proceed with us when making an enquiry, but by receiving advice from a specialist who is well versed in travel law, you'll know which options are available to you, and you'll still have the option to accept TUI's offer.