The tragic news today that two Britons were amongst the nineteen who have died in a horrific hot air balloon accident in Egypt has raised questions again about the safety of what could be considered extreme sports abroad.
Whilst many similar activities are overseen by the Health and Safety Executive in the UK, ensuring that participation in such events is as safe as can possibly be, assurances overseas are more difficult to come by. Travellers seeking to see the sights of Luxor from the unique perspective of the air will feel even less assured of the safety of the flights as this is the second crash within four years. This, despite Thomas Cook indicating that all of the pilots they use for hot air balloons were extensively retrained after the 2009 incident.
So, what guidance should you follow if tempted to undertake sport such as hot air ballooning, hang-gliding or even parasailing, speed boating or kayaking when abroad?
The very first thing you should do is to ensure that your travel insurance covers you for such activities as many don’t. Most tourists have an idea of the activities they’re going to participate in during their stay before they fly and so they should seek express assurance from their travel insurance company that they will be covered. If it’s not specifically included or excluded on your policy, ring and check, getting a name and asking for written confirmation if there’s still time.
Once in your resort, remember that cheapest isn’t often going to be the best and to save money and offer the lowest rates for activities, many companies with take short cuts with maintenance of equipment and levels of safety. Seek the guidance of your rep and, if possible, book with them – they’ll have far more influence locally and will helpfully speak English and usually the local language. Travel companies don’t want to be faced with bad press, especially in these difficult economic times so they’re likely, as Thomas Cook is doing with the current disaster, to pull out all the stops to help.
Once undertaking the activity, listen to all safety instructions before beginning – it may well save your life – and don’t do anything stupid just to show off, never drink alcohol before such activities and eat sensibly beforehand.
Following these basic rules may not save you from similar disasters but you’ll stand a much better chance of avoiding or surviving them.