An initiative developed by ABTA, the Association of British Travel Agents, will insist that hotel rooms let to British tourists must meet strict new balcony height and design requirements.
As reported in the Daily Mirror, the balcony requirement has already been adopted by Jet2 and TUI UK & Ireland, two of the largest tour operators in Ibiza and throughout the Mediterranean. The move will affect tourist centres throughout the Mediterranean.
Ibiza has seen many tragic deaths and serious injuries as the result of balcony falls, some unintentional accidents and some as a result of so called ‘balconying’, jumping from a balcony into a hotel pool or adjacent balconies.
The ABTA requirements include a stipulation that the Balcony must be a minimum on 1.1 metres (3 foot 7 inches) high, and that it cannot have any gaps that allow it to be climbed.
The report says that rooms have already been withdrawn from the supply offered to British holidaymakers, though no details are given how many or where they are located.
As is often the case in changing health and safety regulations, the root cause is said to be the insurance industry who have faced huge claims following balcony falls.
This is a news item that is likely to get ripped to bits as ‘health and safety gone mad’ or ‘drunken Brits deserve it’.
It is impossible to know exactly how many deaths would have been avoided by these new regulations, but if anybody does have a good idea it will be an insurance company actuary applying case law outcome vs statistics.
Ultimately what we are looking at here is a ‘dividing line’ between what the insurance companies feel a court will find negligent and what they will not. That balconies should be constructed in a manner the courts do not find negligent, a contributory factor in a person’s death, seems an entirely reasonable requirement to me. A requirement that should be there in the first place.
Though the immediate situation is that rooms will be withdrawn from availability to British tourists, the longer term reality is that our market is sufficiently important that the winter will see a flurry of Hotel balcony upgrades and improvements that will be to the benefit all of hotel guests not just British.
This move will not stop balcony deaths. No one claims that. But it will reduce them. My mind is taken to the tragedy last year when a young child climbed his hotel balcony, and fell to his death watched by his mother who could not reach him as he lost his grip on the outside railing. If this regulation did nothing more than ensured we never have to publish a similar report again, it would be proved worthwhile.
It is true that many more of the deaths have been in situations involving excess drink and drugs. But having personally published so many reports on the subject I ask you this, do not think of it as a regulation caused by or affecting drunken Brits. Think of it as a regulation saving the heartbreak and anguish of their mothers.