Belgians are taking part in more risky activities when on holiday, leading to a record number of deaths of Belgian abroad this year, according to figures from Europ Assistance (EA).
With the summer holiday season not yet over, EA has already recorded 162 fatalities or almost three a day for the period. The majority of fatal accidents involve road traffic incidents, followed by medical problems, either pre-existing or developed while on holiday.
There then follows the category of “other accidents,” which can include the consequences of alcohol abuse, disappearances which turn out to be fatal or sporting accidents when for example rock climbing or taking part in water sports. In only one case was the death the result of suicide.
“There does sadly appear to be a trend towards taking heroic risks while on holiday,” said Xavier Van Caneghem, spokesperson for Europ Assistance. “People often show off about it afterwards on social media. It’s considered a lot cooler than lying by a swimming pool all day. For a lot of people being on holiday means being up for a bit more of a challenge, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but our advice is always be well prepared, well-informed and if necessary accompanied by a professional.”
Motoring organisation Touring agrees that the number of fatal accidents involving sporting activities is rising, spokesperson Danny Smagghe said. “It’s not very wise to go mountain climbing on holiday if you hardly ever move at home,” he said. “It’s always essential to be prepared and get enough rest. Accidents with hill walkers are typical. Do we want to stop people being active on holiday? Of course not, but with the right preparation and a dose of common sense, dramas can be avoided.”
Fortunately, not all accidents have a fatal outcome. Travel organisations EA, Touring and Mutas deal mainly with accident cases involving medical problems, from a broken arm to infections. Touring has opened 2,062 cases to date this year, slightly more than in the same period in 2018. EA has 1,900, also slightly up, while Mutas remains steady at 6,900. Cases that have seen the most increase involve gastro-intestinal problems, food poisoning, and respiratory problems.