More than 25 people have drowned in swimming pools on holiday in the last two years with nearly 500 more involved in serious accidents, the Safer Tourism Foundation has revealed.
The charity, which was set up last year to prevent tragic accidents on holidays, is now campaigning to raise awareness on swimming pool safety while on holiday.
Research shows the majority of those involved in the incidents were children and is calling on parents to do more to prevent accidents.
Accidents were mainly found to be down to a lack of supervision, diving or jumping into shallow water, or becoming entangled in the filtration system. Many of the incidents occur in water parks.
Research found that 51% of holidaymakers have seen others leave their children unsupervised around pools and just 29% of those with children have educated their kids on water depth and safety of diving in.
A quarter (25%) of people with children have explained to their children how to use chutes and water slides safely while 21% admit to having have drunk alcohol before swimming in holiday pools.
The research also revealed “serious misunderstandings” such as 52% of respondents believing the presence of a lifeguard guarantees a safe pool experience.
Just over 1 in 10 (11%) of respondents with children agreed that it is ok to leave their children for a short while if there is a lifeguard present, 8% of respondents (nearly 1 in 10) admitted they do not always check the depth of a pool before diving or jumping in and 42% said they don’t know the CPR/ kiss of life procedure well enough to deliver it.
Less than 3 in 10 (28%) respondents check their kids’ swimming costumes for anything that can be dragged into filtration systems and 71% think parents or carers could do more to supervise and help make pools safe.
Respondents to the survey also said travel businesses can do more to make pools safe.
Forty percent of respondents think safety around holiday pools is good enough, 44% of respondents think they get adequate information and communications to use pools safely when on holiday and 43% say hotels and accommodation providers do enough to make pools safe when on holiday.
The STF’s campaign has set out a set of principles for holidaymakers to follow for a safer experience under the acronym RELAX.
Kathy Atkinson, chief executive of the Safer Tourism Foundation, said: “Swimming pools are one of the great features of many family holidays abroad. We want people to enjoy their time in the pool. But too many people are having serious accidents in holiday swimming pools. It’s ruining hundreds of holidays and, sadly, many lives too. The terrible thing is that it’s so unnecessary. With a little extra care on the part of travellers and holiday companies, these tragedies could be avoided, and lives saved. We know this is causing holidaymakers to worry, so this summer we want people to be able to RELAX in and around the swimming pool, confident about the safety of their family.
“Follow these simple steps to help you to RELAX:
RECCE the pool environment when you first arrive at your accommodation. Identify safety features, barriers, slides and chutes, deep and shallow end, whether there is a lifeguard if it’s a shared pool and when they’re on duty. Take a moment to enter the local emergency numbers into your phone when you arrive.
EYES on the kids – keep a look out always (whether it’s you or someone you trust).
LIFESAVING techniques. Make sure you or someone you are with knows how to save lives. There may not be a lifeguard where you are going, so learn some basic CPR. And even if there is a lifeguard, bear in mind they are not substitute parents
ARMBANDS – If they are needed, make sure they stay on at all times. Children often want to go back in the pool even when the time for swimming is over.
EXPLAIN to children how to use the pool safely. Take time to do this. It’s vital.
The STF urged travel and tour companies, villa providers and individuals renting out accommodation direct to customers, to follow its requests to help ensure they take care of every family that travels with them and uses a swimming pool on holiday.
It asks them to make sure pool signage and briefing material is clear on what to do in an emergency, make emergency contact numbers easily accessible.
For those that do provide a lifeguard service, the charity expects the lifeguard’s hours of duty to be clearly communicated and signed and, regardless of the local requirements, which vary from country to country, expects lifeguards to be able to deliver CPR.
“We want to raise awareness on all sides that more needs to be done to prevent serious accidents in holiday pools, and it is the joint responsibility of parents and travel companies to make the swimming pool experience as safe as possible,” Atkinson added. “It’s great that some travel companies have already agreed to highlight this issue to their clients. We hope the whole industry will get behind our campaign by reminding travellers going abroad this summer about the practical things they can do themselves to have a great holiday by the pool, as well as looking at their own practices to ensure they are doing all they reasonably can to reduce the risks.”
The Safer Tourism Foundation was established after children Christi and Bobby Shepherd died of carbon monoxide poisoning while on a Thomas Cook holiday in Corfu in 2006.
Their mother, Sharon Wood, who spent 10 years fighting for justice, is a founding trustee.