Dangerous pools, faulty lifts and fire risks still hallmark of Costa Deathtrap

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The Independent Online
Some holiday hotels abroad are a potential deathtrap, with only one out of 39 recently inspected reaching a satisfactory overall level, according to a survey by the Consumers' Association .

Most disturbing of all, the findings were slightly worse than in the association's last survey four years ago, when legislation was passed to make tour operators responsible for the safety of the hotels that they use.

The report found serious safety flaws in swimming pools, fire precautions, children's play areas, lifts and balconies in two favourite destinations for British holidaymakers, Turkey and GranCanaria.

Kim Winter, acting deputy editor of the Consumers' Association's Holiday Which? magazine that contains the report said: "Following our last major survey, there is very little difference - the same old problems keep cropping up.

"There seems to be some breakdown in how tour operators are keeping the hotels up to scratch," she said.

"Some of these hotels are death traps - how many people must be maimed or killed before the tour operators will take their responsibilities seriously?"

Among the findings were that nine out of 19 pools inspected at hotels in Gran Canaria were dangerous; three Turkish hotels had dangerous pools and 11 had pools which rated as poor.

Seven out of 20 Turkish hotels had fire safety problems and only four out of 16 hotels in Turkey were found to have satisfactory lifts.

One hotel in Puerto Rico, Gran Canaria, had no fire alarm at all. A member of staff allegedly told the inspectors: "If there's a fire, we shout."

Other problems included hotel corridors - one of them 48 was metres long - with dead ends.

The one hotel which passed all the inspections was the Sol Fulya, in Side, Turkey, used by Thomson, First Choice and Sunworld.

In the previous survey, carried out four years ago, only four hotels out of 42 were found to be satisfactory - slightly better than this year's inspections, which had been carried out in June and July.

The Federation of Tour Operators (FTO), which represents most of the largest holiday firms, said it was "nonsense" to paint a picture of little or no improvement in hotel safety standards.

A spokesman said: "We feel the language and tone of this report is unfortunate and shrill, and we regret that."

He said that companies had made huge efforts to improve safety standards, including producing an educational video for hotel owners, and staging road shows in different resorts about hotel safety.

Keith Betton, head of corporate affairs at the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), which also represents tour operators, said: "We are surprised to see these results, bearing in mind the fact that tour operators spend millions of pounds in safety inspections.

"As safety is a top priority, these allegations will be fully investigated. If the claims are true, the problems will be rectified as soon as possible."

Despite the apparent slump in standards reported by Which?, there are no signs of a recent leap in the numbers of those complaining or taking legal action. The number of complaints about package holidays made to ABTA remains constant at around one per thousand holidays. The overall figure for the industry as a whole is estimated at around one per cent.

The FTO's chairman, Martin Brackenbury, said: "This is a cynical attempt by the Consumers' Association to peddle simplistic solutions to very complex problems."

FTO members invest more than pounds 12m a year employing British safety professionals and consultants to carry out inspections and provides loans for the hoteliers to make necessary improvements.

"Statistics prove that it is already much safer to take a package holiday than to stay at home, and as standards rise all over the world it will continue to be so," said Mr Brackenbury.