Concerns raised over lack of insurance policies

More than 30 companies have taken travel insurance off sale, and a dozen more have changed their terms to say coronavirus isn’t covered, according to Silver Travel Advisor.

Speaking on Travel Weekly Webcast about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the mature travel market, managing director Debbie Marshall said: “We are hearing about a growing and concerning number of stories of people who are unable to get insurance.

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She added: “There are over 30 companies at the moment who are not selling travel insurance who normally do and about a dozen others, at least, which have changed their terms and conditions, most notably saying that coronavirus is not now covered.

“That is not going to put any feeling of confidence into somebody booking a holiday if they cannot get insurance to cover everything they need.”

Marshall said customers were also encountering problems when renewing annual policies.

“If somebody has a change in their pre-existing medical conditions, and then try to renew and have new conditions to report, we’re hearing reports about premiums going up significantly, or companies refusing to take insurance,” she said.

“It’s a big problem because we can have all the enthusiasm that we want, and all the people wanting to work and borders opening and things really looking quite positive, but older people in particular have to have absolutely fully comprehensive insurance to be able to travel securely and safely, so this is something that really has to be addressed.”

Iain Powell, head of trade sales and third-party cruise at Saga Holidays and Saga Cruises, said finding a workable insurance solution in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak was “top of the agenda” for Saga’s insurance arm, with work “rapidly ongoing”.

“I would imagine that’s the same for most insurers,” he said. “We can’t get to a point where, pre-vaccine, Covid-19 is just not covered.”

He pointed out that coronavirus is covered on Saga’s existing insurance policies.

“If a customer amends a booking, then they continue to benefit from that cover. If they create a new booking, then they are in the in the category of coronavirus cover isn’t included,” he explained.

“We want to encourage guests to rebook so they continue to benefit from that cover. And we think that’s a real positive for those guests who do choose to move their holiday [as opposed to cancel it and rebook]. It’s probably fairly unlikely that with any, or very few, you would get covered for coronavirus on a new booking at the moment”.

Kirker Holidays director Ted Wake added: “One way you can limit the risk is booking later, closer to departure. A lot of older clients actually miss undergoing treatment at the time. It’s a risk that they have understood and they’re managing it. If they book two or three weeks before departure, they’re obviously limiting the risk significantly.”

He added: “The other challenge is about the perception that people have of the virus and the risk. The more comfortable we become just living through the coronavirus era, the more knowledge and the more information that comes out about it, the closer we get to a vaccine, that the more we meet people who’ve had it and have recovered.

“Sure, you’re not going to overcome people’s fear, some will always need to have their hands held firmly, but people will grow accustomed to it and will overcome some of their anxieties as long as we stay confident, and we’ve got realistic expectations about what they should and shouldn’t be planning.”

Marshall concluded: “Until there is a vaccine or some medical treatment which means this isn’t an issue for insurance, there has to be some kind of solution – whether it’s a top up you can take or something similar, because there is a significant proportion of people who will be concerned about traveling to a place where their insurance policy excludes cover for Covid-19.”

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