Package tour operators are under a duty to ensure that their clients' holidays are of a reasonable standard, but that does not mean they must bear legal responsibility for incidents abroad that cannot be foreseen or forestalled. The Court of Appeal made that point in a case concerning a tourist who was raped by a hotel electrician whilst staying at a luxury resort in Sri Lanka.
The uniformed electrician lured the woman to an engineering room on the pretext of showing her a shortcut to the hotel's reception and put her through a harrowing ordeal. She sued the tour operator through which she had booked the holiday for £29,000 in damages under the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992.
It was argued that the electrician was undertaking a service under the holiday contract in guiding the woman within the hotel grounds and that his assault manifestly constituted a failure to provide that service to a reasonable standard or with reasonable care and skill. The woman's claim was, however, dismissed by a judge.
In ruling on her challenge to that decision, the Court found that the holiday arrangements provided to the woman were not of a reasonable standard and constituted improper performance within the meaning of the Regulations. However, in dismissing her appeal by a majority, the Court ruled that the tour operator had a good defence in that the improper performance was due to an event that neither it nor the hotel's management could have foreseen or forestalled by the exercise of reasonable care.
The electrician was of previous good character and no similar complaints had been made against him in the past. There was no direct relationship between him and the tour operator and the hotel had responsibly taken up his references before employing him. There had been no reason to suppose from his history that he might rape a guest.