Insurers urged to offer cover for Covid-19 cancellation

A lack of travel insurance cover for cancellation is casting doubt over travel firms’ ability to seize on early signs of a recovery in demand as the Covid-19 pandemic recedes.

Providers including Holiday Extras, Staysure, Saga and Just Travel Cover have begun offering Covid-19 policies that cover travellers if they fall ill while overseas.

However, there are currently no polices covering people who need to cancel before they depart if they fall ill or must self-isolate as part of the UK’s track-and-trace system.

Alan Bowen, legal adviser to the Association of Atol Companies, said: “There is a real issue about the ability to cancel. Insurers are starting to move very slowly. They need to go a little faster and a little further to satisfy all the market, but particularly the more senior market.”

Debbie Marshall, managing director of Silver Travel Adviser, said insurance cover was “a big concern for older people”, for whom it provided reassurance to book.

“The last thing they want is to travel and find themselves ill overseas needing hospital treatment and not being covered for it,” she said.

“They want reassurance because there is that fear factor, however small.

“No matter how determined you are to get out and travel, if you can’t find the right policy that might be the last stumbling block.”

Alistair Rowland, Midcounties Co-op chief retail officer for specialist business and Abta chairman, appreciated the challenge insurers have assessing risk amid quarantine and track-and-trace policies.

But he added: “Practically, offering cover while on holiday is not much use, particularly while people are booking now for this winter and summer 2021.

“Very few customers are going to buy a full policy if it hasn’t got some form of cancellation cover.”

Bowen urged insurers to look at introducing US-style policies that allow cancellation for any reason. He said these had been tried in the UK in the past but had failed due to expensive premiums.

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