Monday, July 07, 2008
The average Briton spends nine days a year sleeping away from home while on summer holidays. Seventeen million of us go on package holidays and spend around £46 a day on board and lodging - a modest sum. Appreciably more is spent by those who book their own accommodation and travel.
However, whether heading to a B&B in the Mediterranean, or a five-star hotel in the Caribbean, a quarter of holiday investment is wasted because of health problems. A recent report by Boots Travel Probiotic suggests that British holidaymakers spend £391 million a year sitting on foreign loos. Nearly half, 48 per cent, of those surveyed suffered from gut problems overseas. Even one in four of those holidaying in the UK picked up something nasty.
It is now scientifically established that eating away from their usual neighbourhood is the relevant factor in causing travellers' diarrhoea. The holiday trade would prefer that everyone believed this was because emotional tensions were raised by battles at airports, anxieties over luggage, niggling doubts as to the hotel booking and the discovery that the reserved bedroom was next to a building site. Travel agents will admit that water can be responsible - not because of bacterial contamination from glasses rinsed in dirty washing-up water but, they suggest, because the geological structure of the local mountains makes a mysterious difference to the water's chemistry so that it becomes mildly laxative.
Travelling stress does undermine the immune system and lower resistance to infection, but in most cases the principal cause of traveller's diarrhoea is bugs from dirty hands of waiters, filthy, bacteria-laden dishcloths and cutting boards in unhygienic kitchens, and the organisms that live around plugholes in sinks. Most people, wherever they come from, have an immune system that is able to deal with the local bacteria. However, if they travel even 100 miles, the neighbourhood strains of E. coli and salmonella encountered are different, so that usually benign bugs upset the stranger's guts.
You know somewhere nice that's within 100 miles of your house? Somewhere that's already got all your stuff in it, perhaps?