Gloria Hunniford, Angela Rippon and Julia Somerville investigate health-related holiday disasters, including those who have had to cancel holidays due to the zika virus.
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We asked you who's left you feeling ripped off when it comes to your
holidays, and you came back with a catalogue of travel disasters.
A holiday's supposed to be a time of relaxing, not a time of more stress,
and certainly not a time of stress whilst you're away.
It's just annoying that you think, "What next?
"What are they going to put a charge on next?"
So whether it's a deliberate rip-off, a simple mistake,
or indeed a catch in the small print,
we'll find out why you were out of pocket and what you can do about it.
Your stories, your money, this is Rip Off Britain.
Hello, and welcome once again to Rip Off Britain,
bringing you a much-needed burst of holiday spirit from the island of
Tenerife, where we're going to be looking into even more of the
holiday travel stories that you've asked us to look into,
especially on your behalf.
And while most holidays do of course go very smoothly,
something that can throw a dreadful spanner in the works is if someone
that you're travelling with falls ill.
Not only might you run into problems getting the treatment itself,
but the consequences can rumble on and on even after you have returned home.
And we've got some worrying examples of exactly those scenarios
on their way. But the good news is that for each of the situations we'll be
looking at, there are ways to ensure that no-one in your group,
whether on two or four legs,
picks up something unwanted while you're away.
holidays scuppered by the Zika virus.
Why you might not get your money back if you have to cancel.
They're actually encouraging people to make the wrong decision.
They're encouraging people to go on holiday
and put their unborn children at risk.
And could the ease with which pets can now travel abroad be the reason
why a disease that is deadly to dogs has suddenly appeared in the UK?
They called us up actually to say that we're going to have to put
-Mishka to sleep.
-It was... She was on the critical list.
On our holiday series last year,
we reported on some of the really nasty illnesses that mosquitoes can
carry and pass on to us when they bite us.
And of course, in the months since then, that has really come into even
sharper focus, with the continued spread of the Zika virus.
Now, as well as those heartbreaking images that we have seen of mothers
whose babies have been affected by the disease,
we've also seen plenty of headlines about destinations that could now
also be affected. Trouble is that
while the effects of contracting the virus whilst you are pregnant are
not being disputed, what does not seem to have been settled and agreed
by travel companies is how to handle those customers who feel that the
presence of Zika leaves them in, well,
a position where they have no option but to cancel their holidays.
Because depending on who you've decided to book with,
you might find that making that choice, however sensible it may be,
leaves you hundreds of pounds out of pocket.
It threatened to derail last year's Olympics.
-It's created such a scare that some athletes have said they won't
take part in this year's Olympic Games.
But the mosquito-borne Zika virus has caused panic in communities right across the Americas.
Its rapid spread has led to those most at risk being warned against
visiting popular destinations such as Florida.
New advice for British holidaymakers travelling to Florida,
after cases of Zika are found in the state.
In February 2016,
the World Health Organization declared it a public health emergency.
And to avoid the disease's worst consequences,
tens of thousands of travel plans have been changed or abandoned.
Including those of Alice, a primary school teacher from Northampton.
In March 2016,
she and her partner, Jeff, booked a trip for several months later, in the summer,
to visit Jeff's family in the tiny Caribbean island of Dominica.
And it had particular importance as Jeff's mother,
who I am afraid has now died, had recently had a stroke.
I knew how important it was to Jeff to go and see his mum,
so for both of us it was a really important trip for us to be taking.
To save money, the couple made two separate bookings for flights,
from the UK to Florida and then on to Dominica via Jamaica.
It was a complicated but cost-effective method,
involving two booking agents and three different airlines.
They definitely weren't the most direct flights to get to Dominica,
but just to save money we were willing to take our time getting there.
The couple's flights to Florida with Air France cost them a total of
almost £1,000, on comparison website Bravofly.
And they paid almost £600 for flights onwards to Dominica with JetBlue
and Liat Airlines,
which they sourced via another comparison site - CheapOair.
I was really excited to go.
We've got the flights and that.
I was like, yeah, I finally get to go back home again.
Get to see my mum.
But just two months after they'd sorted their travel plans,
Alice discovered she was pregnant.
We were really excited to find out we were pregnant, weren't we?
Yeah. Nervous and scared, but happy, really happy.
But of course, amidst their excitement was the thought of their
upcoming holiday to Dominica.
And when a friend, who was also pregnant, said she'd been warned
against booking a holiday to that area because Zika was now prevalent,
Alice began to worry.
-In the past few months,
it has been spreading fast, to more than 20 countries in the Caribbean
and Latin America.
I'd heard news reports previously that it was in South America,
so it wasn't until after my friend had reported it to me being in the
Caribbean that I then went on to look it up.
Though the first case in humans of the mosquito-borne virus was
discovered in 1952,
it was only in 2013 that the disease was linked with causing brain damage
in babies. And two years later, as it reached Brazil,
the numbers of babies born with severe neurological damage increased.
As a result, pregnant women were quickly classed as, "at most risk".
So, when Alice visited her doctor,
his advice on whether she should take the trip couldn't have been more clear.
He said there's no way he would risk it,
so it was really gutting, to be honest.
Just devastating, because we'd been so excited about our trip.
The doctor also advised that Jeff shouldn't make the trip either,
because if he contracted the illness,
on his return he could pass it on to Alice and his unborn child.
I wouldn't risk that for my kid or anyone else's.
Dr James Logan from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has
been studying the spread of the Zika virus around the world.
The main way that it's transmitted is through the bite of a mosquito.
And in the tropics, like in South America,
those mosquitoes are extremely prevalent.
And that is why we're seeing the disease Zika spreading very,
very quickly in that region.
And while, for most healthy adults,
the consequences of being bitten are minimal,
similar to a mild dose of the flu,
the effects on unborn children can be far more serious.
The symptoms can be extremely devastating,
and we have all these, sort of, complications,
one of which is called microcephaly, which is when babies are born with a
very small head because the brain hasn't developed properly.
But a number of other complications as well.
And you know, that can be extremely devastating,
it can be life-threatening and is a severe problem.
Of course, one way of protecting yourself from mosquito bites and any
disease that they carry is to make sure that you use a repellent.
And as Dr Logan so valiantly tested on one of our programmes last year,
there's one that is especially effective.
Deet is the best repellent that you can buy.
It's absolutely vital if you go to a country that has Zika or any other mosquito-borne diseases,
you must take a good repellent with you.
But whilst a repellent is a good precautionary measure for the rest of us,
for women who are pregnant the official advice remains that they
should completely avoid non-essential travel to areas where the Zika virus is active.
So, it was with this advice and a doctor's letter that Alice got in
touch with Bravofly and CheapOair to cancel her flights.
But things weren't going to be quite that simple.
Bravofly said, "No, you can't get anything back.
"The policy states there's no cancellations."
When Alice spoke to the other travel agent, CheapOair,
it didn't sound like she'd get any money back from them either,
as the official advice warning pregnant women not to travel to affected
areas had already been issued when the couple booked their flights.
And it didn't seem to make much difference when Alice tried pointing
out that at the time she'd booked she hadn't even been pregnant.
It's really frustrating that we can't get that money back, now that we need
money more than we ever have.
-And we could be spending it on things for the baby.
Bravofly did offer to refund the couple £300,
which Alice was reluctant to agree, as it was almost £700 short of what
she'd paid. But feeling she had little choice,
she did eventually accept it.
Even so, she feels very strongly that,
considering the potential consequences of her taking the trip,
and the fact that she hadn't been pregnant when she booked the
flights, she's been treated unfairly.
I think that it's awful that the airlines and the travel agencies
don't help people in our situation,
because they're actually encouraging people to make the wrong decision.
They're encouraging people to go on holiday
and put their unborn children at risk.
I felt like they were punishing us because we weren't going,
because we weren't willing to take the risk of putting our son or daughter in jeopardy.
Well, when we got in touch with both the booking sites with which Alice
had dealt, Bravofly told us that,
while it understands the couple's frustrations,
the airlines could make no exception to their usual policies on this.
Not even for pregnant women.
And while it appreciates that at the time of booking Alice
hadn't known that she was pregnant,
it says that at the point that she and Jeff booked, they were in a position to
be aware of the Zika risk at their destination.
However, it reiterated that a partial refund has been accepted by the couple.
But there was better news from CheapOair.
Though it too said that the tickets bought were non-refundable,
and it was up to the airline,
in this case JetBlue and Liat, to approve any refund in line with its own policy,
the company says it worked hard to get that refund.
And as a result,
Alice and Jeff have now had all the money back for those particular
tickets, with the cancellation fee waived.
CheapOair says it's sorry there was a delay with this,
but the airline refund process typically takes a minimum of around two months.
And while getting even some of their money back does make a big
difference to Alice and Jeff,
their experience underlines just how important it is for any of us,
pregnant or otherwise,
to check official government advice on the country to which we are
travelling before we book.
And that's because in a case like this, the situation can quickly change.
In fact, now the Zika virus has spread beyond Florida -
turning up in Texas.
And the World Health Organization has decided that the virus is here
to stay and therefore no longer classed the spread itself an emergency.
However, the health risks remain the same and they still consider it a
significant public health challenge.
And as we've suggested before,
it's also worth making sure that any travel insurance you take out,
comes into effect right away, and that it covers you for cancellations.
But because Alice and Jeff didn't have that kind of protection,
they've ended up almost £700 worse off.
And although that's far from ideal,
they say they'd rather lose the money than go ahead with the trip.
Who would want to go somewhere where
they're going to put their child at risk?
It's just awful and I would never, ever risk that, to go abroad.
-I'd never risk anything for our child.
Now many travellers, myself included,
love the fact that these days it's quick and easy to take our pets on
holiday to Europe, rather than having to leave them behind,
I don't like doing that. But the rules around this have changed since
they first came in. And while normally we might consider any sort of relaxation
of red tape to be a good thing, in this case it might not be,
because some fear it could have opened the door to diseases that
could prove deadly to dogs entering the country.
And I'm afraid that's not just a notional risk.
It's one of those diseases that's already here.
Now, Frodo Baggins may look like an ordinary pug,
but in fact he was a trailblazer back in the year 2000,
becoming the first dog to get a pet passport.
He arrived on a ferry crossing from Calais shortly after midnight.
That meant he was free to travel with his owner, of course,
across Europe, without the need to be quarantined when he got back to
the UK. And where Frodo went, others followed.
For the first time in over 100 years,
pet owners rejoiced as their beloved companions would no longer have to
spend weeks in kennels whilst they swanned off on their holidays.
Well, there was certainly a moment for celebration in our household when,
finally, my two Cavaliers, Gemma and Roxy,
could come away with us to France.
Something that we still do to this very day.
Similarly, Holly Wilson, from Warwickshire, and her family had embraced the
opportunity to holiday with their pet pooches.
In 2012, they took Olive and Badger on a month-long trip
to the south of France.
Leaving the dogs behind for that long wasn't really an option,
so some other friends had taken their dogs away, so we thought why not?
It seemed quite easy, so we took them with us.
The whole month was absolutely brilliant.
Before the family had left the UK,
they'd made sure that both dogs were right up-to-date with tick and
The vet had warned us that there would be more ticks in France than
there would be in the UK, keep an eye on them, which we did.
Towards the end of the holiday, about four days before we left,
we found a tick on Olive, in our daily checks, and removed it with a
tick remover and that was, kind of, the end of it.
I wasn't particularly worried.
But once that tick had been found,
Olive had to see a French vet for more anti-tick treatment before her
return to the UK.
And while she was then given the OK to travel,
by the time the day for that came around,
Olive had started to lose her appetite and seemed just that little bit off colour.
And on the journey home, she began to get much worse.
She wouldn't drink anything, her gums, we actually checked,
and they were bright white, which I knew was really not a good sign at all.
Sadly, Olive was quickly going downhill.
At that stage, I thought, "This is touch-and-go." And we really didn't know what to do.
It was just an absolute nightmare.
When they finally arrived back on British soil,
the family drove to an emergency veterinary surgeon.
But despite her symptoms of weakness,
pale-coloured gums and coffee-coloured urine,
the vets were left confounded.
We went straight there and had some blood tests and they tested her straightaway.
To begin with, nobody really knew what was wrong with her.
Now, it was only by chance that a Polish vet working at the surgery
recognised the symptoms from dogs that he treated back home.
He suggested that Olive had contracted the tick-borne disease,
which is called babesiosis, which is common in mainland Europe,
but rare in the UK.
And sadly in dogs, it can be fatal.
So while it looked like the diagnosis had come in just in time for Olive,
with the condition being so unusual,
the vets struggled to find the medication needed to keep her alive.
We literally had 12 hours to get the medication into her.
She had to have a blood transfusion.
Because it attacks the whole body, it shuts everything down.
We really were...
It was a race against time.
My husband and I started phoning specialist vets around the country and,
luckily, we found one near Luton that had actually got the drug in.
Once she'd had the drugs, Olive made a rapid recovery.
When we went back to pick her up in the vet, I've never had a greeting like it.
She sort of jumped all over us and almost saying, "Thank you for making me feel better."
It was amazing bringing her home.
However, the family's relief was cut short when Holly found out that
because Olive had contracted the disease outside the UK,
her pet insurance wouldn't pay for any vet's bills,
even though she'd been treated here in the UK,
which meant that the family was left facing a bill of nearly £2,500.
I definitely don't think the insurance company treated us fairly at all.
Apparently it was in the small print that any European cover was not covered.
But while making sure you have the right insurance for a pet travelling
abroad is crucial,
what's perhaps more of a concern is that Olive got bitten and fell ill
just months after the changes in anti-tick controls under the pet passport scheme.
And cases like this only magnify fears from some that this relaxation
of the rules has made it easier for diseases like babesiosis
to travel undetected from mainland Europe into the UK.
Which, I'm afraid, does already seem to have become a reality.
Because in 2015,
a whole clutch of cases were reported around Harlow in Essex.
Dog owners are being warned about an outbreak of a deadly disease that's
entered the UK for the first time.
Dean and Lisa's husky, Mishka, was one of the first to contract it.
We first noticed there was something wrong with Mishka when she didn't eat,
she was very tired, and when we asked if she wanted to go for a walk,
she didn't want to move.
The couple rushed Mishka to the vet, where the discovery of a tick,
combined with the results of blood tests, led to a diagnosis of babesiosis.
But again, the scarcity of medication for such a rare condition
meant that Mishka was still in grave danger.
They called us up, actually,
to say that we're going to have to put Mishka to sleep.
She was on the critical list.
The only option left for Mishka was a blood transfusion.
Mishka was given a 1% chance of surviving
and we was going to do anything for
that dog that was going to help it survive.
Yeah, just to save her.
Just to save her.
Do you want to go walkies, Mishka?
Mishka responded well to the blood transfusion, but, I'm afraid,
in a really cruel twist of fate,
she died just a few weeks later in a road traffic accident.
The family's experience means that they remain extra vigilant about the
risks posed by ticks and regularly treat and check their other dog,
We don't want to go through all that again.
-It was awful.
-I shouldn't be worried about taking my dog out for a walk
along the path and worrying, "Has she got a tick?"
I shouldn't have to worry.
-I shouldn't have to check her every single time I bring her home.
Now, even abroad, it's rare for dogs to be bitten by a tick carrying babesiosis.
And until recently, it had never happened to a dog here in the UK.
But Mishka is one of five dogs, all from the same part of Essex,
to contract the disease from ticks without going abroad.
Vet Clive Swainsbury treated four of those dogs.
We've now identified a population of ticks locally,
that are infected with this parasite and transmitting it to dogs at the
moment, in and around Harlow.
And although Clive hasn't encountered any new cases since early 2016,
as far as he's concerned, this is now a constant threat.
It only needs for one dog to have a tick on it, to be put in the car and
taken down to the West Country,
and the next thing you know you'll have the disease breaking out down in the West Country. Nobody could...
figures as to how quickly it's going to move.
But we're fairly certain it's going to move.
And eventually affect the whole of the country.
So we asked the Department for Environment,
Food & Rural Affairs why the pet passport scheme doesn't include
mandatory anti-tick treatment, as some people say it should,
and whether in light of the outbreak in Essex,
it has plans to consider reintroducing such safeguards?
It told us that since the UK...
in 2012, it's meant that...
And it explained the decision was based on a 2011
veterinary risk assessment that judged there was...
DEFRA went on to say it's really important that owners are aware of
the risks that ticks can cause dogs, and deal with them responsibly.
It recommended speaking to a vet about routine preventative treatments.
But Holly and Dean and Lisa are convinced that the only solution is
for the pet passport rules to be tightened up again.
And that it's made compulsory for dogs travelling to and from mainland
Europe to get the treatment that can stop such diseases spreading.
We've only been seeing these diseases since the law's been changed,
so I definitely think it needs changing back.
We need to stop any other diseases coming into the UK,
because it's putting all our dogs at risk.
The rules of bringing dogs in and out of the country have got to be changed.
Being able to take a dog abroad without any checks, and being
able to bring a dog back in without giving them checks is just wrong.
Our travel expert Simon Calder has all the secrets to save you money
whilst travelling. He has the top tips on how to avoid the crowds,
and the best way to stay clear of those tourist traps.
This time, three top destinations that you probably never thought of visiting.
All sorts of places claim to be the next big thing in holidays,
but Simon has picked some close to home that don't yet have anything
like the number of tourists they should, meaning lower prices and fewer crowds.
Starting with a relatively undiscovered corner of one of
the most popular destinations of all.
Our favourite foreign country, Spain, of course.
Is there an inch of Mediterranean coastline that the British aren't
all over, with beer by the pint and full English breakfasts by the dozen?
And is there a Spanish coastal city that hasn't been completely overrun by tourists?
Where there's still room to breathe?
Well, Simon thinks the answer to both questions
is the city of Cartagena.
It's been reinvented as a cultured and welcoming location,
with a museum of underwater archaeology,
as well as an imposing hilltop castle that you can reach by lift.
And all of this less than half an hour from Murcia Airport.
Next - a waterside holiday doesn't have to involve the sea,
a large lake will do.
And my favourite is in the deep south of the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia.
A beautiful lake that defies its name -
Ohrid. And it's just a budget flight away from lovely Luton Airport.
Simon says the city of Ohrid is the perfect setting
for a tranquil family holiday,
from where you can explore ancient monasteries and soaring mountains.
As for his final emerging destination...
The tourism success story of the 21st century is been in the Gulf,
where Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha have turned themselves from dusty,
airline pit stops to glittering clusters of skyscrapers.
Yet, if you dig a little deeper,
you can discover fragments of Arabia that have barely changed in centuries.
He's very convincing.
Simon's top tip in the region is to take a trip to historic Dubai Creek
and the vast Jumeirah Mosque,
both in the United Arab Emirates' Dubai City.
Still to come on Rip Off Britain -
could even Britain's cleanest beaches sometimes be awash with
things that you might not want to swim in?
So this overflow will end up being discharged just onto the beach down
here, where you can see people paddling in the mouth of the river,
where you can see the surfers surfing.
We've been on the road to hear your stories and share tips and advice face-to-face.
We watch you on the TV all the time.
-Oh, thank you.
-This programme is excellent.
And we had travel expert Simon Calder on-hand to answer all your
complaints about holidays, including this one from Mike Slade.
He spent £2,800 on a four-star holiday to Tenerife,
using a travel company he found on the internet.
But things started to go wrong from the moment he booked.
When we got the paperwork through, it was the wrong hotel,
they got my name wrong,
my wife's name wrong, and we only had a week and a half to go before
we were going.
'Not the best start.
'And things only got worse when Mike and his family arrived in Tenerife.'
Basically, we got off the plane looking for our taxi and there was
nothing. So I had to walk round the airport for about half an hour and I
eventually found a little booth with this company's name on.
We waited there for another half an hour for this guy to saunter up and
not even say, "Are you Mr Slade?"
He just went, "Taxi?"
When you got to the hotel, did it live up to the four-star rating?
No. When we eventually got here, and I just happened to look at the sign...
And it had - three-star.
My heart sank.
'The hotel was miles from anywhere, on the side of a mountain.
'Mike claims his family all suffered stomach problems after eating the food
'and, as far as he was concerned,
'the whole place had seen far better days and didn't even merit its
'three stars. But as we've heard before,
'discovering how many stars a hotel really deserves is no easy task.'
Well, what I've read up about star ratings, it's just unbelievable.
First of all, there's no great international system which says that
a four-star hotel has to have this, and this, and this, and this.
It's all done nationally.
And even then, they will say, typically again,
in the terms and conditions -
"Of course, star ratings are just what the hotel says it is."
-But that's ridiculous, isn't it?
-Well, of course it is.
-Who do you trust?
Well, you trust, ultimately, a tour operator that if they are selling
something as a four-star, and it's actually a three-star with, I would say,
two-star tendencies, in your case, then you can say,
"Oi, that's not what I booked."
'Now, you might think Mike should get compensation after paying for a
'four-star hotel but only getting a pretty ropey three-star one,
'but that's where things get tricky.'
If it's an online travel agent,
they are very different from proper package tour operators.
When you book a proper package holiday,
you get all manner of fantastic consumer protection,
like delivering the holiday you think you've bought, but, in fact,
when you're going through an online travel agent, they just say,
"Well, we'll act as an agent, we'll go and get your flights,
"we'll act as an agent and get your hotel, maybe some car rental."
But these are all individual transactions,
and your contract is with the airline, or the hotel,
which is a really uncomfortable position for you to be in.
Exactly, when you've got no coverage, when you've done it all individually?
Exactly. If you've got a proper package,
then effectively from the moment you turn up at Liverpool or Manchester
Airport, or wherever, to the moment you get home,
there's someone you can yell at.
'But whatever individual arrangements the company he booked with made with
'its suppliers, Mike believes that, to all intents and purposes,
'it did sell him a package.
'When he complained, he was offered £162 compensation,
'and he doesn't believe that covers the difference between what he booked and what he got.'
As I said to them, I didn't book the hotel, they booked it.
I didn't book the flights, they booked it, I didn't book the taxi,
because they booked it, so me, personally,
I class that as a package.
You might class it as a package,
but they make absolutely clear that it isn't,
and they make it clear that they were only booking it on your behalf.
'Simon says when we book what looks like a package online,
'we should check very carefully whether that's what it actually is,
'because if, technically, it isn't, as Mike's now realised,
'it can make resolving a complaint much more difficult.'
The internet is a fantastic thing for travel,
but you do need to understand that there's an awful lot of tricks and
pitfalls out there, and it seems that you fell victim, I'm afraid,
-to many of them.
So, I'm afraid, I think you're lucky to get anything.
Now, I don't know how recently you've taken a dip at the seaside in
Britain, but over the last two decades our coast has been transformed.
Water quality has improved to such a dramatic extent that almost 95% of
our beaches have been given a clean bill of health.
But some people say those impressive-sounding figures don't quite tell the full story,
because there are some days when even the highest-scoring shores may
fall foul of things you'd really rather not find yourself swimming in or with.
# I should be so lucky in love. #
The year when Kylie was queen of pop.
# She wants to dance with me. #
Rick Astley was strutting his stuff,
And Bros were melting teenage hearts.
# Nothing at all. #
It was also the year when a third of the bathing waters around the UK
were deemed unsafe to swim in.
Fast forward to today,
and while all those artists are still going strong,
our beaches have gone from strength to strength too,
almost 95% now have excellent water quality.
In our holiday series last year,
we visited some of those beaches, to see how EU regulations were aiming
to push these standards even higher.
The revised Bathing Water Directive came fully into force in 2015.
This makes the bathing water quality standards twice as stringent as the
One of the beaches that boasts excellent bathing quality is this one,
Godrevy Beach in Cornwall.
But for local surfer Hugo Tagholm,
there's more to these crystal-clear waters than meets the eye.
2km upstream, deep in the woods, is the Red River,
which takes its name from the colour created by mineral deposits in the riverbed.
It flows directly down onto Godrevy Beach, and out into the bay.
As it does so, however,
it occasionally picks up things along the way that give Hugo and
other local surfers cause for concern.
So this is one of two combined sewer overflows that discharges into the
Red River. This discharged eight times last year in the bathing season,
and, actually, it puts sewage into the stream, the Red River,
that runs down to one of Cornwall's best beaches.
Combined sewer overflows like this one, CSOs, for short,
are tunnels used when the local sewerage system overflows,
for example when there's heavy rain.
To avoid sewage backing up into our homes,
these systems divert it elsewhere, and in this case,
that means out to sea, and onto the beach.
So there are visible signs on the grille here.
We've got toilet paper and cotton bud sticks.
They are what we call sewage-related debris.
Sometimes we see them in the bushes up and down the river here,
next to the mouth of the CSO,
and they show that sewage has passed through this grille
relatively recently, when people are using the beach just 2km downstream.
Hugo heads a charity called Surfers Against Sewage,
which is campaigning for tighter limits to be placed on the use of
these CSOs, particularly around beaches.
So the combined sewer overflows will end up being discharged just onto
the beach down here, where you can see people paddling in the mouth of
the river, where you can see the surfers surfing.
Any pollution in the waters here doesn't just come from the CSOs
discharging. In 2015, after tests found that rainwater run-off from
roads, rooftops and farmyards could also contribute,
the Environment Agency concluded that even if CSOs weren't used,
some pollution would still end up in the bathing water.
But for Hugo and the other surfers in the group,
it's CSOs that are the biggest problem.
They're worried that anyone swimming or surfing in the water could be at
risk of getting sick from the raw, untreated sewage that several times a year flows onto the beaches.
That human sewage can carry with it pathogens and bacteria that can make
people very sick if they come into contact with it.
They can get ear, eye, nose, throat infections, and much worse.
Hugo and his colleagues claim they often suffer from tummy upsets and
sickness, which they are convinced are caused by inadvertently
swallowing raw sewage while swimming in the area.
Surf school owner and former British longboard champion Dominique Kent,
for example, believes she has been made ill by swimming in or near sewage.
OK, look straight up the beach and arms out.
A sewage discharge pipe flows downstream and onto the beach where
her business is based in St Agnes.
She reckons that's caused her to suffer from sickness and diarrhoea
three or four times in the past five years.
Good, well done, guys. Well done.
Now, of course it's impossible to prove that any illness Dominique has
suffered is down to contact with infected water on the beach,
but with a discharge pipe so close,
she is concerned about the effect this may be having not just on her health,
but her customers' too.
Sometimes we have to stop lessons because we've got sewage coming down
the beach. I'm very conscious of my clients.
I don't want them to get sick, which means I lose business.
It's not just my business that's affected, it's all the local businesses.
If tourists come down here getting poorly, getting sick from the sewerage,
it's going to have an adverse affect on tourism.
Cornwall is a lovely place to come and visit.
We want to keep it nice and pure, keep the sewage off the beaches.
Using CSOs to cope with sewage overflow isn't confined to Cornwall.
All around the UK, the same method is used by water companies to
disperse sewage when the main systems get full, and according to Hugo's data,
collected direct from water companies,
there were 926 of these overflow events in the 2015 bathing season in
England alone. Campaigners say that's simply too much, and for Hugo
it's even more of a worry when this happens on beaches deemed to have
excellent water quality, like Godrevy.
His message to those responsible for those beaches is clear.
They need to make sure that their users, the visitors to that beach,
can avoid that sewage pollution as and when it happens.
The official advice is to avoid swimming in the water for the
48 hours after a CSO has been discharged.
Of course, knowing when that might have been,
especially if you're a visitor to the area, can be tricky,
but there are telltale signs that sewage has been released recently into the water.
At this beach at Cramond, near Edinburgh, an annual clean-up is under way,
led by the Marine Conservation Society.
There's about 80 beaches around Scotland, about 300 all around the UK,
and thousands all around the world
that are part of the International Coastal Cleanup.
This particular beach isn't one of Scotland's 84 designated
bathing waters but it is part of a study into sewage-related debris.
Much of the rubbish being collected is made up of wet wipes and
cotton buds, and though it's possible that some of this could have been dropped as litter,
the Marine Conservation Society believes it's more likely to be
evidence of a sewage release into the waters nearby.
I've been involved in this project with the Marine Conservation Society
for 16 years, and I'm still shocked by what we're finding on the beach,
and the amounts of rubbish, particularly the sewage debris.
Clean-ups such as these do go part of the way to improve our beaches
but there's more that we can all do at home.
It's a very simple message for people only to flush pee,
poo and paper down the toilet and not flush these items down,
because it can end up spoiling our beaches.
But back in Cornwall,
Hugo believes that by the time you spot any wet wipes or other
sewage-related debris, chances are you may have already been swimming in, or near the sewage.
So Surfers Against Sewage has introduced an app to help bathers know when
an overflow has occurred, and therefore which waters could be affected.
If sewage is going into the sea,
we believe that people should know about that in real-time.
If they know about it in real-time,
they can avoid that pollution and choose to bathe at a different beach
until the pollution risk has passed, basically.
So the water companies are being proactive and it's part of our strategy
to call for that information to become a mandatory requirement for all water companies.
Hugo and his colleagues are working with water companies to encourage
them to share details of any sewage discharge, so that the information
can be fed into the app, which is available to download for free.
The Safer Sea Service provides real-time sewage-alert information
at over 330 locations.
We've got about 20,000 subscribers who receive real-time push messages
for their favourite beaches, so they know if there is a sewage discharge,
and they can avoid potentially using that beach on that day.
Well, when we contacted Water UK,
which represents all the major water providers across the country,
it told us that CSOs act as a vital and legal relief valve,
allowing excess flows of highly diluted water, which passes through screens
to remove plastic and rags, to be released into rivers and the sea...
..adding that the only real alternative to CSOs would be expensive and
disruptive work to fully separate surface water from the sewerage network,
which would not only cost billions of pounds but in the short-term...
And South West Water,
which is responsible for those beautiful Cornish beaches we filmed at,
told us that since it was established in 1989, it has invested over £2.3 billion
to protect and improve the region's bathing waters...
And it's also pioneered a voluntary information service called Beach Live,
that provides free public alerts when storm water overflows may affect bathing water quality.
It went on to say that the water at these beaches was classified as
excellent under the tough new standards introduced in 2015
and pointed out that all this is a far cry from the days when raw sewage was routinely
discharged from residents' homes directly into the sea.
And while he recognises what progress has been made,
Hugo looks forward to the day when no sewage at all goes anywhere near our cleanest beaches.
We all need to enjoy our coastline.
We want to encourage people to get onto the beach, to get into the water,
to experience a really clean and healthy and happy time at the seaside,
and so this is about just protecting people where they need to be protected.
Well, I think it's clear that whether you take your holiday abroad,
or in the UK, it's very easy to pick up an illness that proves to be a very unwelcome souvenir
of your particular trip.
But I suppose, more positively, what we all hope,
is that you've also be able to pick up some really useful
tips on how to reduce the chance of falling foul of the particular
conditions and situations that we've talked about today, in the first place.
And at this point I might weep because you know I'm a really,
really keen dog owner myself and the story about those poor animals
infected with that truly nasty disease was a real wake-up call for me,
especially as we do take them abroad quite a bit when we go on holiday.
So, at least now I'll know to actually keep an extra eye open and have them checked,
just in case any of those ticks might catch up with them and
cause them a bit of a problem.
We hope that wherever you are or where you go, with your pets or without,
you have a happy and healthy holiday,
and we'll see you again very soon, to investigate more of your stories,
so do, please, keep them coming.
For now, though, from all of us, goodbye.
Gloria Hunniford, Angela Rippon and Julia Somerville investigate health-related holiday disasters, getting to the bottom of why those who have had to cancel holidays because of the rapid spread of the zika virus haven't been able to get their money back.
Plus, could the ease with which pets can now travel abroad be the reason why a disease that is deadly to dogs has appeared in the UK?
Simon Calder reveals three top holiday destinations that viewers have probably never heard of, explaining how they are better value for money than more familiar favourites.
With even the cleanest of British beaches still occasionally covered in things you might not expect to find yourself swimming in, there's advice on how to tell if your trip to the seaside could be affected.