Travel Industry comments greeted with interest; Consumer Groups call for pan-European Law on Hotel Safety

A report from ITV News revealed that the Travel Industry are apparently calling for Universal Standards on Health & Safety in Holiday Accommodation.

Whilst we would welcome any initiative to provide comprehensive Consumer Protection, an examination of their comments reveal some unanswered questions.

It appears that the Industry is calling for a uniform standard in holiday accommodation, thereby placing the onus upon the accommodation owner to protect their guests.

The apparent comments of the Industry do not appear to suggest that their own health & safety checks require examination or regulation.

We note that on the question of standards, the Travel Industry has spent years and no doubt a considerable amount of money on legal fees, to defeat UK Consumer Claims of UK Standards and achieved judicial support for local standards applying.

In the interview with Joel Hills, we detected a less than clear explanation of what the Travel Industry are seeking and have left the impression that they are either seeking a form of ‘local standards plus’ or a set of non-regulatory standards.

As we see it, this lack of clarity is important, particularly in light of the recent inquest in the death of Christianne & Robert Shepherd from Carbon Monoxide poisoning in Corfu in 2006.

Victoria Bacon, representing ABTA, responded on film that:

“We think that the best way to force people as you put to eh to ensure that you’ve got these safety measures in place is actually to have local laws locally implemented”

ABTA is clearly the body that represents the bulk of the UK Travel Industry, they say that:

‘ABTA is the UK’s largest travel association, representing travel agents and tour operators that sell £32 billion of holidays and other travel arrangements each year’.

Further into the report, the viewer is advised that:

“The Travel Industry insists that safety is of paramount importance and it wants change too, for years they’ve pressed for standardised health & safety rules across all 28 European Union countries”

Given these apparent comments from the Travel Industry, we pose several questions:

  1. Is the ABTA position still based on different local standards rather than a pan-European Law?
  2. If it is not based on local standards, will ABTA and their members abandon their insistence that English law only requires compliance with ‘local standards’; will it change its position to state that it will comply with UK Standards, until such time as a universal standard or law is implemented?
  3. When ABTA and the Travel Industry claim that they have pressed for standardised health & safety:
    1. Are they speaking about creating a CEN based standard, or
    2. Creating a CEN based standard capable of being incorporated into EU Law, or
    3. The creation of a full-blown EU Regulation which is implemented directly into each Member State’s Law automatically?
    4. If it is none of the above options, what do they propose to create increased Consumer Protection on Health & Safety?
  4. Is it the intention of ABTA or the Travel Industry to also propose and submit to positive obligations on them to:
      1. Ensure that initial assessments of hotel & cruise properties are correctly carried out, and
      2. That subsequent periodic assessments and ongoing monthly reports maintain the high standards required in any Standard or Regulation?
  5. Will ABTA & The Travel Industry also propose that any such Standard or Regulation incorporates a publicly available register detailing those resorts, hotels or cruise ships subject to ‘black-listing’ because of their failure to adhere to that Standard or Regulation?
  6. Will ABTA & The Travel Industry also recommend that Travel Companies also failing to adhere to any such Standard or Regulation be added to that ‘black-list’?
  7. Noting that their comments appear to only relate to the EU area, what ‘standards’ or ‘laws’ do they propose to protect Consumers for the Travel Product outside the EU area?
  8. If ABTA & The Travel Industry are serious about creating a pan-European Standard or Regulation:
      1. What positive steps will they take to create a wide Stakeholder panel to lobby for either legislative or standards change?
      2. Is the Travel Industry willing to enter into continuing dialogue with organisations that seek to help holiday victims, such as the Corfu parents, in order to learn from such experiences and work in partnership to improve their service in the future?
      3. Where appropriate, will the Travel Industry now work with Charities to aid the goal of improved Consumer Safety by providing unconditional funding for their work?
      4. In light of recent events concerning Carbon Monoxide Safety, will the Travel Industry now provide full details of the third parties they use and in particular reveal important detail about their practices and qualifications, particularly whether they are using the UK ‘Gas Safe Registered’ installer qualification or its equivalent in a foreign destination?

Frank Brehany, the Consumer Director for HolidayTravelWatch states:

“This news report revealed that even now, after everything that has happened, the Travel Industry do not appear to be clear about what type of Regulation they are seeking or what is required. Our questions will hopefully deal with that deficit, because after all, like HolidayTravelWatch, I am certain that the Travel Industry will want the best form of ‘legislation’ to protect Consumers and to create a level playing field for the Industry; we stand ready to play our part and to bring the Consumer experience to the table in Brussels & Westminster!”

He concludes:

“I fully support the comments of my campaigning colleague, Stephanie Trotter”.

Stephanie Trotter, The President of CO-Gas Safety states:

“I give a cautious welcome, subject to the answers to our questions, to the apparent desire for improved standards. Nearly every victim I have talked to during the 20 years I have run this charity, wants to make sure that lessons are learned from their tragedy. Victims want steps to be taken to make sure injuries or death doesn’t happen to others in the future. I pay tribute to Sharon and Neil [the Corfu Carbon Monoxide parent’s] who epitomise this and we admire their courage, determination and commitment. However, it shouldn’t be victims who have to work so hard even to raise safety issues”.

She concludes:

“It is easy for industry to state that ‘safety is paramount’ but does it put this into practice? Huge corporations tend to have policies, levels of management and knee jerk reactions that can make it virtually impossible for victim based organisations to have a meaningful dialogue with those with the power to change things, but also who has responsibility for the day to day safety issues. There is an attitude that ‘it’ll never happen to us’. Industry knows of the barriers victims have to get through. But it did happen to Thomas Cook. CO-Gas Safety issues an invitation for those at the top of the UK travel & fuel industry to talk to us and listen properly to the concerns of victims. We want action to protect people. In the UK we have counted 677 deaths and over 4,700 near misses/injuries from unintentional carbon monoxide (CO) in 19 years, yet there are not even any prime time TV warnings about CO. Nor do we have any secure funding for our victim support and data collection, collation and publication, yet it is from the victims and the data that we have come up with safety improvements to save lives, preserve health as well as save huge costs for the NHS.”

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