ABTA – The Travel Association, and the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK), the drowning prevention charity, are urging holidaymakers to follow safety tips and swim safely this summer as new research by ABTA shows that one in five people (18%)* know someone who has got into difficulty whilst swimming on holiday. As we enter peak summer season, plenty of people will be enjoying the water in pools or in the sea – half of people (49%) said that swimming was an important part of their holiday, rising to almost two thirds (64%) of people with children.

Sadly, accidents are common and each year drownings are reported which could have been avoided by taking some simple precautions. Last year ABTA was made aware of 16 fatal drownings abroad, seven in swimming pools and nine in the sea. According to the RLSS UK numbers of UK citizens drowning abroad have been known to peak up to a tragic 75 per year.

Simple steps such as following safety information can make a difference to water safety and ABTA recommends people take some time to familiarise themselves with their surroundings when swimming; worryingly over one in ten people (12%) don’t check safety information before they swim. This is especially important on holiday, where people swim in unfamiliar environments.

Incidents can also occur when people overestimate their swimming ability or fitness, particularly as four in ten British people (43%) haven’t swum at all in the last year and only a quarter (27%) of people swim regularly (at least every 2-3 months). Many holidaymakers may not realise how much more challenging swimming in open water can be, even for strong swimmers.

Families should take care in the water

ABTA is calling on families to take care in the water, tragically, five of the seven swimming pool drownings reported by ABTA Members in 2013 involved children.

ABTA and the RLSS UK are highlighting a number of tips for parents including:

  1. Children in and around water must be kept under constant supervision at all times. Unfortunately, many accidents occur when parents are distracted. ABTA recommends parents enjoy the water with their children.
  2. Read and follow the pool or beach safety information and check if lifeguards are present.
  3. Be aware of hazards and surroundings, for example locating the deep and shallow ends in a pool, or rocks and strong currents in the sea.
  4. Young people least likely to check safety information
  5. When it comes to swimming safely, young people are putting themselves most at risk, almost a quarter of 18-24 year olds (24%) don’t check safety information before swimming.

ABTA and the RLSS UK have the following tips:

  1. Know your own ability, be aware of tiredness and dehydration in the heat; don’t swim when you’ve been drinking alcohol.
  2. Beware of hazards and swimming conditions, particularly in the sea.
  3. Buddy-up – look out for your mates.
  4. Remember swimming in open water is different to a swimming pool – if you haven’t swum for six months, open water swimming in cold deep water will be difficult, the RLSS advise people to swim parallel to the beach so you can stand up if you need to.

Nikki White, ABTA’s Head of Destinations and Sustainability, said: “The main summer season is just weeks away and thousands will head off to some fantastic waterside destinations at home and abroad. But, whilst happy seaside memories and favourite snaps in and around the pool are the norm, each year there are also accidents in the water- many with devastating consequences for holiday makers and their families. Swimming should be one of the pleasures of people’s holiday, but knowing your ability and knowing what to do to keep safe is vital – that’s why ABTA is reminding people to swim safe and follow safety advice before taking to the water. Simple steps can save lives, keep you and your loved ones safe, and help keep the water fun for everyone this summer and beyond.”

RLSS UK UK Chief Executive, Di Steer said: “As the UK’s drowning prevention charity we are delighted to join ABTA in highlighting safety issues to all those heading off on holiday. Swimming on holiday, whether at home or abroad is a real staple of the summer break, but it’s important that children and adults alike know what their limitations are and that they treat the pool and the sea as very different environments. We all know water is fun but it’s truly tragic that accidental drowning causes deaths hundreds of deaths every year, and that thousands more suffer near drowning experiences – many of which could have been avoided. Have fun in the water but read these tips before you get in – it could be the best decision you make and avoid a summer holiday becoming a family tragedy.”

The Government Foreign and Commonwealth office (FCO) have also lent their support to the campaign. Ruth Stannard, the FCO’s Director of Consular Services in France, said: “Every year British consulates around the world see water safety incidents involving British nationals abroad, ranging from injury to deaths, both in pools and in rivers and the sea. Conditions can vary significantly so it’s important to understand and follow the relevant safety advice and not to rely on lifeguards, who may not always be present. Take the time to find out about the local conditions and follow simple tips such as those provided by ABTA to help ensure you enjoy the water and swim safely.”

For more tips and information visit www.abta.com/swimsafe