First Choice has defended the Bahia Principe hotel in the Dominican Republic following news that more than 400 holidaymakers are taking the operator to court after they became ill at the resort.

The operator has reassured agents that the hotel still meets “excellent levels of quality and standards”, despite previous guests’ claims that the hotel was dirty and unhygienic.

A spokeswoman said: “Bahia Principe San Juan is and continues to be a very popular resort. We are very confident that guests due to travel there in the future will have a wonderful holiday, experiencing the excellent levels of quality and standards they expect from a First Choice property.”

The 400 customers are seeking a £3.5 million payout after their holidays – some of which were weddings or honeymoons – were ruined by outbreaks of salmonella, shigella and campylobacter.

All the tourists visited the resort between May and August 2007. Since then, Thomas Cook has reached a £3.5 million settlement for 500 tourists who fell ill at the same time. However, First Choice is continuing to deny liability.

Travel law film Irwin Mitchell has now lodged court proceedings on behalf of the holidaymakers.

Head of travel law Clive Garner said: “It is nothing short of ludicrous for First Choice to deny it was at fault. At the very least the (holidaymakers) deserve the same treatment as Thomas Cook afforded its customers.”

Guests claimed the hotel was dirty, unhygienic and that food was left uncovered for long periods of time.

Some described the hotel as being like a “hospital ward” with fleets of ambulances coming and going, according to the law firm.

The First Choice spokeswoman added: “We are concerned to learn of any alleged illness in any of our properties.

“However, as the matter in question is currently subject to a legal process, it would be inappropriate of us to comment any further at this time so as not to prejudice future court proceedings.”