In 2 separate cases, a West Midlands couple have been compensated £7,000 and £3,800 respectively following gastric illness at an Egyptian resort hotel.
"Our clients both contracted gastrointestinal infections characterised by diarrhoea, stomach cramps and tiredness," Simpson Millar's Andrew Tarling said.
Couple were holidaying at the Red Sea Holiday Village Hotel in Sharm El Sheikh with their 2 young sons
The couple are in no doubt their illness was caused by hygiene problems at the hotel. "At first we thought that what we had caught had been because of the pool as its cleanliness left a lot to be desired. But now we think it was something we consumed in the restaurant".
From the moment the family arrived they were concerned about their accommodation. "We weren't given the usual warm Egyptian welcome," the husband said. "It was more of a cattle market as they processed us as soon as possible."
The family arrived at night, so they were keen to eat before going to their room. "But the buffet restaurant had only lukewarm scraps. The plates were also cold."
The couple noticed that staff appeared to struggle with a high throughput of hotel guests. "As a result there would be queues for food, and spoons and ladles for 1 dish would often be used for others."
He added that tables were frequently sticky and were wiped only with dirty wet cloths. "Highchairs would always have dried food stuck to them. We had to clean them with antibacterial wipes before putting our baby in them."
The family encountered still worse conditions when they came to use the hotel's swimming pool – an important cooling-off facility in such a hot climate.
"The busy main pool was closed on average a couple of times a day due to – we were told – people defecating in it," the husband said.
"One of the pools was closed one afternoon after a man died in it."
The family had only been at the hotel for 2 days when the husband became ill. "At first my stomach felt bloated. Then I felt nauseous, dizzy and had a bad headache. At 10.30 that night I sought medical attention."
A blood test revealed a bacterial infection. "The doctor said a fluids drip would stop me feeling sick. He was right, but my other symptoms carried on."
From the day he became ill, our client complained "many times" about the hotel's poor hygiene. "My wife was pregnant and I was scared she would get what I had," he said. "We even asked to be moved to another hotel, but they said this would have to be at our own expense."
"None of the staff wore hats, hairnets or gloves and there was no-one cleaning the buffet area, which always had spillages. Nor did anyone check food temperatures."
His fears were confirmed when, a few days after he had become ill, his wife presented with the same symptoms. "The doctor tried to give me tablets without an examination," the retail manager said. "I refused as I was worried about taking anything."
After a drip was administered the 31 year-old began to feel better. But like her husband she continued to suffer stomach pains and diarrhoea for the rest of the holiday.
By now the couple were desperate to leave the hotel, worried their children would be similarly afflicted. "We couldn't get out quickly enough," the wife said. "We asked about [early] flights back home but they wouldn't come back to us.
"We contacted the First Choice helpline, who finally said that my husband and I would have to take different flights to airports in Scotland. Living in the Midlands, this wasn't an option."
The husband added that early flights would have added £3,000 to the £2,538 the holiday had already cost.
Forced to see out the rest of their ruined holiday in acute discomfort, the family eventually returned to the UK as scheduled. Although the husband recovered within a few days, his wife felt frail until after Christmas. "Since then I have felt fine and my baby was born healthy," she said.
"The boys ate different things to us. If [the illness] had come from the pool, surely they would have got it as they were in the water a great deal."
Andrew Tarling agreed that the source of couple's illness must have been the holiday village as they did not leave it prior to becoming unwell. "They had been in good health before going there."
Andrew added that First Choice's reps refused to admit fault. "They persistently asserted that the illness was due to the heat, but the couple knew this wasn't the case. The reps should have been trying to identify what the true cause was instead of apportioning blame elsewhere.
"Had they done so, they might have prevented other guests from becoming ill."
Andrew noted that the Red Sea Holiday Village Hotel is specially marketed to appeal to families. "Yet it seems that large numbers of people become ill here year-on-year as a result of poor levels of cleanliness or hygiene."
"Excellent from start to finish" was both claimants' verdict on Simpson Millar's service, following a combined settlement of £10,800. "[Andrew Tarling was] very helpful throughout...honest, reliable advice."
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