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Keywords:

  • travel medicine;
  • malaria;
  • Kenya;
  • India;
  • consumer regulations

Summary

A study to assess the frequency of health related advice provided by travel consultants to customers planning to travel to the tropics was undertaken. A total of 202 agencies throughout the UK were visited by covert researchers requesting a package holiday for 2 weeks to Kenya or a flight to India. In a face to face consultation, the researchers recorded any health related information provided. If none were forthcoming, the agent was prompted using a standardized prompt. Thirty per cent of the agencies were based in South-east England and London and the remainder in the North, the Midlands and the South-west. No spontaneous health warnings were given in 61% (123) of consultations for malarious destinations. After prompting, 71% of agents gave general health advice, 67% suggested seeking malaria advice from a general practitioner and 37% of agents brought up the need for malaria prophylaxis for the journey. 63% of consultations included a mention of malaria after being prompted. The study reveals that travel agents provide health advice inconsistently and mention health risks only when prompted. For travellers' safety and to meet new consumer regulations, the travel industry needs to draw attention to health risks associated with its products consistently and effectively.