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October 20, 2010

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Holiday health and safety needs Euro directive, says travel body

The organisation that represents travel agents in the UK is calling for new European rules to ensure that more responsibility for health and safety lies with suppliers of holiday services.

Speaking at the Travel Convention in Malta earlier this week, Nicki White, head of destination strategy and services for Abta – The Travel Association, said the issue was “a real focus” for the industry, following the trial of two Thomas Cook travel reps earlier this year in relation to the deaths of two British children at a resort in Corfu.

The reps – Richard Carson and Nicola Gibson – were found not guilty in May of the gross-negligence manslaughter of Christianne Shepherd, 7, and her six-year-old brother, Robert, who died from carbon-monoxide poisoning in their holiday bungalow at the Louis Corcyra Beach Hotel on the Greek island in October 2006.

In all, 11 people faced prosecution by the Greek authorities over the deaths, and judges found three of them guilty of manslaughter: the hotel manager, head of the hotel’s technical department, and the hotel’s electrician – all of whom were sentenced to seven years in prison. A civil engineer received two years’ probation.

However, Greek prosecutors are pursuing the case against Richard Carson and the other defendants cleared in the original trial. Nicola Gibson will not be re-tried.

Thomas Cook has maintained all along that the incident was a “tragic accident” and that it could only rely on the information provided for it by its suppliers – in this case, the Louis Corcyra Beach Hotel. After its reps were cleared in May, it said they should never have formed part of the case.

Said Nicki White at the Travel Convention: “We believe that the onus should be placed on suppliers. We want a level playing field so wherever customers are travelling across Europe, they get the same standards.

“That’s why we are calling for a European directive on tourist accommodation health and safety. It could take 10 years to get it, but however long it takes we are not going to be put off.”

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