BBC Radio 5: Jeremy Browne on the behaviour of British tourists abroad

Foreign Minister, Jeremy Browne was interviewed about the Foreign Office's report on the behaviour of British tourists abroad.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
Jeremy Browne

**Rachel Burden (RB): **Binge drinking, drug taking, loutish behaviour, just some of the stereotypes you hear about badly behaved Brits abroad, and now a report from the Foreign Office shows British holidaymakers are still getting drunk, arrested or hit with enormous medical bills overseas.

The Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne is with us. Good morning to you.

Jeremy Browne (JB): Good morning.

RB: Nice to talk to you. Why is it do you think that we’re a bit daft, that we lose a sense of responsibility when we travel abroad?

JB: Well I think it’s worth saying that tens of millions of British people travel abroad every year either for holidays or business and the vast majority of them enjoy themselves, they have an incident free trip, so we are talking about a minority of people. But you are right that there are a significant number of people who behave differently abroad from the way that they would behave at home and they get themselves in to difficulties which we try and help with. But it’s much better to prevent the problem rather than trying to cure it afterwards which is why we’re in part releasing the figures to make people aware of some of the difficulties they may encounter and try and make them think about them in advance.

RB: And pre-empt them. Do you think it does disproportionate damage to our reputation as British people travelling abroad?

JB: Well I think it can do damage but we’re, what we’re trying to focus on particularly today is, is trying to minimalise the problems that people have. I mean you’d be amazed for example how many people go abroad without any travel insurance or if they do go with travel insurance quite often go with one that doesn’t cover all their conditions, that they haven’t read the small print, and that applies to older people as well as younger people.

People go without the right inoculations if they’re going to countries where they could get ill, and they often don’t respect the laws and the customs of that country, and so they can get arrested for offences for example which are not criminal offences in Britain. So people need to be mindful of the circumstances of the place they visit and not leave their brain at home and do things like, I don’t know, travel on, on mopeds without helmets. That’s just as dangerous abroad as it would be at home and yet in some, for some reason people as I say quite often behave differently and, and end up paying the price.

RB: Because, because you’re relaxing aren’t you and you’re, you’re sort of out of the context here, so you, you, you, you tend to sort of perhaps take risks that otherwise you wouldn’t normally do?

Talking about mopeds and travel insurance let’s just hear the story of twenty three year old Dean from Derby who had to be home, flown home from Malia in Crete after being knocked off his moped. And he says people shouldn’t just go for the cheapest option when choosing holiday insurance.

Dean (Derby): I was dropping a friend off home and then literally on the way back that’s when the car hit me. Before I knew it my head was in the window and then my bike was bouncing all over the place. I screamed for a bit but then the pain kind of stopped and I just accepted that, I’m going to die. One of the workers that are out there who’s in the apartment block opposite me, he came running out, dragged me off the bike, and then they called the ambulance.

I suggest that anybody to get insurance and actually look in to the insurance and see what it does cover because twenty pound insurance may not necessarily be the best one.

RB: So that’s a, a salutary lesson for all of us I suppose …

JB: That’s spot on …

RB: Yeah …

JB: … and, and you get …

RB: … the, the problem is that you spend …

JB: … I mean it’s not just younger people …

RB: … so much on going on holiday don’t you that I, I can understand why when it comes to things like travel insurance and so on that you kind of tend to think well, you know what cover do I need?

JB: That’s right and people go for the cheaper one but they should try and look in to the details. I mean I’ll give you an example with, with an older person, is what you quite often get is that people don’t declare their existing medical conditions …

RB: Right.

JB: … it’s not just older people but that might well apply more often with older people. And of course their insurance is then null and void if that is relevant to their claim. So they think that they’ve done best by making the, you know, the cheapest, the twenty, twenty five pound insurance package but when it comes to the bill for thousands and thousands of pounds for medical cover that they need abroad they find their insurance doesn’t cover them at all.

RB: Just finally, very briefly, I have lit, just for the first time and I’ve been very lax in not doing this in previous holidays, but applied for my European health card, just travelling in France this year. Now how important is that for when you’re within countries, members of the European Union, to have that with you to receive medical treatment.

JB: Well my understanding is that’s for emergency cover only, so it doesn’t cover you for long term health problems. But people need to read, I mean I think what I’d say in, in conclusion is if you go to the Foreign Office website, it will only take you a moment, take much less time than it will to pack your bags, go to fco.gov.uk and there is loads of information there, and just spending a little bit of time thinking about your trip before you go can save you a lot of trouble when you actually get there.

RB: You haven’t’ seen my bag packing, it’s quick and efficient but anyway I take …

JB: I don’t, I don’t …

RB: … your point.

J B: … I don’t believe you.

RB: It is! Even with three children. Thank you very much Jeremy Browne, the Foreign Office Minister. So a word of warning there if you’re about to embark on your holidays.

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Published 16 July 2010