PICK up a travel insurance policy from 10 years ago and you could be surprised how little has changed.

In 1990, medical cover was well into millions of pounds, cancellation was anything up to £5,000 and baggage, personal liability, and cover for legal expenses were all part of the package.

Travel agents were the main source for buying insurance and had little competition from direct-sell companies, banks or building societies. They filled out a form torn from a pad supplied by their intermediary – as used today – and paid themselves a percentage of the premium as dictated by the insurer.

Euclidian Risk Management director Steve King said: “The move from gross to net rates for agents, and free insurance, are the biggest changes over the decade. We as an industry have added a few extras, such as scheduled airline failure cover and loss of passport, but generally it is hard to see many changes to the product.

“On the claims side, there has been a move from using loss adjusters to bringing the procedure in-house.

“That has made it more customer friendly and gives us better control to prevent problems arising.”

King said policies are unlikely to change much in the next 10 years in terms of cover, but will be more clearly presented.

“We are putting in clear and unambiguous explanations about pre-existing medical conditions, and there is probably more we could do. I suspect the rest of the travel insurance industry will be forced to follow to meet General Insurance Standards Council regulations,” he added.

Andrew Blowers, managing director, Select.

“Premiums on policies sold through travel agents will rise as there will be fewer insurers interested in selling through the trade due to concerns over the forthcoming General Insurance Standards Council regulations. Some insurers have taken a caning and already a number have ceased to underwrite travel insurance. Within the next five years, around 30% of travellers will be buying cover over the Internet, either direct or through agents’ or tour operators’ own Web sites.”

Stephen Lawrence, managing director, ABC Travel Extras.

“Travel insurance policies will become increasingly customer focused, not just with regard to price, but there will be a move towards tailor-made policies to meet the needs of independent travellers. That is difficult to achieve now because travel insurance is a low-profit product but it will become more feasible as we automate the selling process with the move to the Internet. It will also be easier for clients to make a claim, with less paperwork, and premiums will have to rise. Travel insurance today costs less than three years ago.”

Steve Nickerson, managing director, Preferential.

“The point of sale will always be an important element in the way that travel insurance is purchased. However, future travel distribution, which already includes the Internet, mobile phones and digital TV, will expand to include more distribution channels, which will continue to grow possibilities on a global scale. People are living longer and are in better health, so policies will need to adapt to dealing with an ageing population. Premiums for so-called hazardous pursuits will eventually decrease as safety improves. Who knows, before the end of this century we could be insuring people for space travel.”

James Beagrie, managing director, Aon Suretravel.

“Travel insurance cover will get broader in response to customer demand so we will see new benefits, and it will become more of a bolt-on product to the holiday, a credit card, or any consumer purchase. Technological innovation will change distribution methods. Business travellers will mark a trip into their e-mail diary and it will make the booking, and buy travel insurance. Assistance companies will develop systems that can identify where a client is through one phone call. These services will cost extra and not everyone will want to pay, so policies will become more selective.”