SPANISH hoteliers are on the warpath after British tourists milked them for more than €60 million last year.
Fraudulent insurance claims will now result in immediate prosecution, they say.
The threat comes after the number of sickness claims rose by 700 per cent in 2016, leading the Spanish hotel owner’s association, CEHAT, to announce a raft of “forceful measures.”
After an urgent meeting with the British Association of Tour Operators and Agencies, ABTA, in Madrid, CEHAT Secretary General Ramon Estalella said:
“The situation has become worrying and we cannot wait for long-term measures proposed by tour operators.”
Among the measures to be implemented this year will be a ‘traceability’ scheme whereby guests will have their consumption of food and drink monitored.
This will allow them to assess whether details contained in the claims, which mostly relate to food poisoning and similar complaints, marry up with clients’ behaviour while in Spain.
British tourists will also be handed leaflets explaining that false insurance claims constitute a ‘felonious criminal offence’ in Spain, with guilty parties potentially facing jail sentences of six months to three years.
This relates to claims of more than €400, with those from the UK typically amounting to €5-6,000.
According to a CEHAT statement, the system is flawed because “according to the British officials themselves, it is cheaper to deal with the claims quickly rather than enter en expensive legal process.
“Tour operators also use a dominant market position to impose contracts under which hoteliers become responsible for all types of claims.”
It is estimated that 90 per cent of the claims received by tour operators in 2016 were false, with the scheme driven by specialised ‘claim farms’ which employ aggressive marketing strategies.