Tour operators face compensation claims after hotel virus outbreak

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The Independent Travel

Two leading tour operators sent British holidaymakers to hotels in the Dominican Republic, despite knowing that there were severe viral health problems there, a Manchester law firm claims. The result, it says, is that hundreds of people became infected and had their holidays wrecked.

Two leading tour operators sent British holidaymakers to hotels in the Dominican Republic, despite knowing that there were severe viral health problems there, a Manchester law firm claims. The result, it says, is that hundreds of people became infected and had their holidays wrecked.

One family from Buckinghamshire became ill, the two younger members of the party so badly that they ended up on intravenous drips in their hotel room. They are among 20 cases for compensation being handled by Pannone & Partners, who expect the number of claimants to rise sharply in the next few days.

Partner Andrew Morton said yesterday: "It beggars belief that tour operators continued to send customers to these three hotels, namely the Riu Mambo, Riu Merengue and Riu Bachata. US and Canadian firms stopped sending tourists there as far back as January, but Thomas Cook and Thomson were still assuring customers that there were no problems, despite evidence to the contrary."

The Buckinghamshire party - a mother, father, their daughter and boyfriend - stayed at the Riu Mambo to celebrate a 30th wedding anniversary and the engagement of the younger couple. The family had asked for health reassurances about the resort and hotel because of the husband's heart condition and recent surgery undergone by their daughter. But one by one they were infected. Their symptoms were misdiagnosed as "tummy upset" and, says a Pannone statement: "They were advised to take wholly inappropriate tablets which had no effect on the virus and, if anything, made matters worse."

The mother said: "It was horrendous. Used needles and drips were just dumped in bins in the hotel room and we never saw the doctor or nurse wash their hands before or after treatment."

Mr Morton, a travel litigation specialist, said that both tour companies have offered "a few hundred pounds" compensation, but advises against accepting it.

A spokesperson for Thomas Cook said: "We were aware that a handful of guests had become ill. We sent out health inspectors and they reported that this was a bug passed from person to person, and nothing to do with the hotel or its hygiene." She added that the number affected was a "small proportion" of total guests. Both she and a Thomson spokesperson said customers were not being sent to these hotels. Thomson said it monitored sickness at hotels and acted as soon as a problem became apparent. The firm denied, as did Thomas Cook, any delay in reacting.

The cases highlight one of the advantages of booking a package holiday with a tour operator. Mr Morton said that those who do so are covered by the Package Travel Regulations 1992, which allow customers to bring a claim against the operator in the UK.

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