20 Jun

Staying safe on balconies

One of the great pleasures of being on holiday is sitting out on your balcony enjoying the view, often with a glass of some kind of liquid refreshment. Accommodation providers will often charge more for rooms or apartments which have balconies with a pool or sea view, knowing as they do that people much prefer them. So, balconies are a much loved and appreciated part of the holiday experience. However, every year a number of holidaymakers - many of them British - lose their lives or are seriously injured because of their balconies, or rather because of the way they use their balconies.

In 2015, tour operators reported to ABTA three fatalities and three serious injuries involving their customers and balcony falls. These numbers represent just the tip of the iceberg as not all incidents are reported and they do not take account of the millions of holidaymakers who travel independently.

The majority of these incidents involved young people and alcohol, with people coming back to their hotel after an alcohol fuelled night out. We have seen people standing on balcony furniture or sitting on the balcony wall and overbalancing, leaning over to catch something being passed or thrown to them by a friend, or climbing over the balcony to access a neighbouring room – to name but a few . All of these are risky when sober, but much more so when drunk. Even more foolish is the practice of “balconing” or jumping from your balcony into the hotel pool. Misjudge your jump and you’ll hit concrete, not water, and jumping from a high height into a shallow pool is a recipe for a broken back, or much worse.

This continues to be a concern, and ABTA has worked closely with the Foreign Office, our Members and local authorities on ways to address this problem, putting out information to the media, advice on our websites and posters for hotels. One grief-stricken parent suggested a few years ago, following the death of his son, that balconies in hotels popular with younger holidaymakers should be fully boxed in, a very understandable response but giving hotels the appearance of prisons is unlikely ever to gain much support. Fundamentally, this remains an issue of changing your behaviour, being sensible and taking a proper consideration of just how dangerous certain activities can be. We seem to be making headway, the number of cases is going down - but one is still one too many.

Perhaps the simplest message might be, if you’ve had a lot to drink after a night out with your mates, it might be best to avoid going onto your balcony altogether.