For millions of holidaymakers this year, a test to follow a well-liked holiday reality will be done many times over… plus, we have no idea what it’s worth. That’s because of a recent change in legislation.
Lateral flow sampling (LF) has proven a hugely successful method of reducing unwanted incidence of disease. It is also great for detecting what the tourism industry terms “garbage” in the water. It does not provide a definite answer, and has not been used widely, but the routine reporting of data helps a whole industry to manage a problem which has grown into a real dirty little secret for many destinations.
The testing method gained popularity several years ago and has been embraced by a slew of great resorts and distilleries producing a profusion of fine botanical spirits from places like Mendocino, British Columbia. There are many accurate, reliable LF data collectors. They drive out a little, and dash in, down from the top end of a mountain to the bottom, down a river or river bank, and back up. Today’s LF workstations in hotels, and distilleries, pubs and restaurants, appear to be like those sporting world-class video game weapons aimed to kill the old Nemesis backstory of mysteries and facades. It seems no one notices them, but it’s worthwhile. This is where, in the market, LF may stand or fall.
For a long time, LF was done by the black bat for me personally, around Barcelona. For reasons best known to the bat that lays it, the ill conceived bylayor (e.g. drinking, throwing, desertion), could only be sampled through a quick capture in a moveable tube, which too frequently slipped from the collection device into the funnel which feeds it back to where the delivery is supposed to be placed. But there is a sophisticated new world class apparatus and a number of LFs on the market today which can identify whatever bacteria, agents, parasites or molds, are present, regardless of what the passage is caused by.
LF has become, in normal working practice, a routine procedure performed before, after and before your next resort pool outing.
Most LF’s these days are bought and sent from an international expert manufacturer, a relatively new entity. One of the major ones, based in Wisconsin, has hundreds of what can only be considered outstanding devices which carry a five year warranty with guaranteed replacement, with up to $800 per device purchase.
Due to the numbers of devices, the time required to test a dip tank or private or public pool, is no more than 2.5 hours per device, so you can schedule when you want to sample a little bit in advance, and will only know the test outcome by mid day. (After a couple of rounds of using the device so that a sample can be collected, being “not always sure” about what a few drops could mean is no longer normal, only for long exposures is the luxury of being on vacation). In normal sailing terms, this is considered, by many resorts, very “super.”
There are only a handful of other bases, with a variety of machines. In Japan, you may be fortunate enough to be in a village which is in the habit of sending in its LF squad for testing from across the road to a facility in Nagasaki. Down south in Bangladesh, the infrastructure is poor, and the results come in a shade after 6 or 7 hours of sampling. It’s a very interesting situation.
Some are made and sent from a relatively old German manufacturer, born in 1827, and the others are mostly made in Malaysia, India and China, even though the machines are not supposed to be used commercially there, but go up to somewhere between about $300 and $500 a device. In those countries you can tell when the equipment came into the country, as noted by online posts that some professionals are actually used to a questionable result, probably from the 2016/17 season.
The worldwide travel trade is quite used to the annoying lack of clarity, when changes to regulation or legislation come into effect. The potential fines are colossal, as is the finger pointing. (You’ll know when yours is, if you read our column…).
Here’s hoping the authorities soon look at the new LF delivery rules more seriously and understand that it’s only one quality control tool, with environmental and economic benefits, in an abundance of employment and tourism data being gained for the environment.