Newmarket Holidays is offering clients Covid-19 cover for their tours at no extra cost compared to pre-pandemic insurance policies.

Niel Alobaidi, Newmarket’s chief executive, said the escorted tour specialist has added Covid-19 cover to insurance that it offers clients.

“I think there was an assumption that this insurance that covers Covid was going to be significantly more expensive,” he said.

“We have now updated our policy and it is exactly the same price as the policy was [before] – so that’s something we’re trying to get out to people.

“Insurance is now catching up with the situation, certainly in the UK, and you’re not having to pay a fortune. It’s exactly the same insurance and the same price as our previous policy.”

He was speaking to Travel Weekly editor-in-chief Lucy Huxley during a Travel Weekly webcast with fellow members of the Association of Touring and Adventure Suppliers (Atas): Intrepid Travel’s EMEA managing director Zina Bencheikh and Phil Hullah, Riviera Travel chief executive.

Bencheikh said the UK and Germany seem to be leading the way with Covid-19 insurance cover.

“We have contracted insurance that has Covid inclusion and coverage, so we can now offer Covid-inclusive insurance,” she said.

“There are lots of countries that are quite far behind, like Australia.

“They don’t necessarily have Covid-inclusive insurance and their borders are closed.

“We are quite advanced with that and I think that’s given a lot of assurance.

“You know your insurance will take care of hospitalisation, repatriation and all of these processes.”

Hullah said Riviera Travel also has a policy to cover clients and reassure them about issues such as cancellation, curtailment and repatriation.

“Travel insurance has been one of the really tricky things in conversation with customers who have a real fear that they’re not covered,” he said.

Bencheikh said her experience in Morocco at the start of the pandemic showed the value of being with an escorted tour operator instead of travelling independently.

“The role of the tour leader to assist when a problem like this happens is critical,” she said.

“In March, when we cancelled our trips, we were evacuating people. We had all our suppliers being very nice with us.

“If things go wrong, you know what a tour company is able to provide to customers versus an independent traveller who’s been just booking stuff online.”

She said the tour leaders have forms with details about all the clients with emergency contacts, as well as special Covid-19 training and equipment, such as spare masks and hand sanitiser.