False sickness claims worry St Lucia officials

St Lucia’s hospitality industry officials have expressed concern about false claims being made by unscrupulous tourists, asserting that such claims are having a negative effect on this country’s vital tourism industry.

According to a BBC report quoting the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), millions of Britons are being encouraged to say they were sick while on holiday.

A poll carried out for ABTA suggests that 19% of all holidaymakers may have been approached by a claims management company on their return home.

They are told that there is money waiting for them if they file a claim, the BBC report stated. and on average successful claimants get payouts of over £2,000 each.

The CEO of the St Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association (SLHTA), Norani Azeez, told St Lucia Times that although the association has not carried out its own survey, the likelihood of bogus claims represents a risk of doing business in the hospitality sector globally.

Nevertheless, Azeez expressed surprised at that the ABTA were so high.

“Certainly the issue of false claims made by guests to get complimentary vacations or reimbursements for expenses spent is something that is part of the trade – something we have continuously been weary of,’ the SLHTA official explained.

“Regrettably, when you have such things occurring, the bottom line of may properties is being hit.”

According to Azeez, the ABTA figures regarding tourist claims were “shocking”.

Gros Islet and Rodney Bay as seen from Pigeon Island.

“When you’ve got claims like that made against properties and successfully too, if these claims are as disingenuous as the survey claims, then you can imagine the bottom line impact on things like liability insurance for properties in an industry that is so price sensitive and desperately trying to compete against a hundred other destinations on the planet.”

The SLHTA official however observed that it should not be understood that all tourist claims are disingenuous.

Not just a UK problem

Azeez described people being approached to file claims as “very alarming”.

‘We have to perhaps be a lot more clinical in regard to which markets we target to do business with.”

The United Kingdom is one of St Lucia’s main source markets for visitors.

But a top St Lucia tourism industry official, who spoke to St Lucia Times on condition of anonymity, said American visitors are equally guilty of making claims for compensation.

The official recalled an incident at a local hotel some years ago where a staff member befriended some guests and took them on a free island tour in his own vehicle.

“They had an accident and the tourist broke his leg and when they left the ssland, everything was fine,” the source said.

But he explained that travel lawyers have become “such professionals” that they “keep scouting” for such opportunities.

“By the time those people returned home they were advised by their lawyers to sue,” the official stated.



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