British Tour Operators have paid out almost £5.5m to tourists who suffered food poisoning whilst on holiday in a hotel in the Dominican Republic.
The food poisoning happened at a hotel in the Bahia Principe Resort in San Juan. The guests were struck down with severe gastric illnesses and suffered Campylobacter Salmonella and Shigella.
The problems were classic causes of food poisoning such as undercooked food and food reheated after being stored at the wrong temperature. In addition the standard of hygiene was very poor with food being left uncovered, sometimes for hours, in hot and humid conditions.
The claims were mainly relating to food poisoning from 2007 but there seems to have been problems with cases of food poisoning at this hotel going back to 1997.
The problems suffered by the guests were graphic. According to reports – further details which can be obtained at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2367333/Tour-operators-pay-5-5m-compensation-1-000-British-tourists-suffered-food-poisoning-Dominican-Republic-holiday-hell.html – at one point there were fleets of ambulances ferrying affected victims to and from the local hospital every day. Guests were regularly seen vomiting in reception and the area was described as like a casualty ward by others.
Astonishingly the situation got so bad that on return to the UK one of the planes had to be quarantined at Gatwick Airport. On another occasion travellers on a plane landing at Manchester had to be treated on the runway before they could disembark from the aircraft. Guests also described birds flying onto tables at mealtimes and there were often long queues for treatment at the overworked and understaffed first aid centres at the hotel.
The Solicitors who represented the victims said that it was alarming that the tour operators which included Thomsons. First Choice, Thomas Cook and My Travel had not learned vital lessons about supervising and taking responsibility for the hotels that they use in their Package Holidays.
The events also demonstrated the life changing nature of food poisoning. Although many guests suffered ruined holidays and honeymoon plans others were still having problems with the symptoms that come from viral food poisoning and may have them for some time into the future or permanently.
None of the companies concerned have made public comment on the poisoning though when Thomas Cook settled cases in 2009 it stressed that it insisted that high standards were expected of the hotels they use as partners.
After this huge settlement it is to be hoped that the operators have learned their lesson for the future.