Navigating the Future of Travel Insurance

Navigating the Future of Travel Insurance

May 14, 2020|Traveler ResourcesNews| by Lindsay Taulbee

Please be aware this is a rapidly evolving topic. We strongly recommend you consult your insurance provider or travel specialist for the most up-to-date, accurate information about coverage options.

Faced with travel bans, quarantine orders, and cancelled trips earlier this year, many people around the world experienced firsthand just how important travel insurance can be. In planning for future travel, here’s what you should know about your options and how the insurance industry is changing in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

Familiarize yourself with the different types of coverage

Unfortunately, cancelling a trip for fear of getting sick is usually not covered under standard policies. That’s why it’s important to be familiar with the most common types of travel insurance and how much coverage they provide. Most insurance companies offer different plans or tiers providing varying levels of protection before or after departure. (This post goes into more detail.) In particular, CFAR—“cancel for any reason”—coverage is likely to become more popular in the future. This type of coverage provides partial reimbursement (typically 50-75%) for cancellations at least 48 hours before the departure date. CFAR is often the most expensive but also the most flexible option, though experts predict companies could soon impose stricter terms.

Talk to your travel specialist

While no environment — at home or abroad — is ever completely risk-free, Holbrook implements strict safety policies, personal inspections, and extensive guide training to eliminate potential risk factors in the field. Additionally, Holbrook purchases Travel Protection on behalf of all participants, which provides coverage once the trip has departed. Optional additional coverage is available and offers benefits for Trip Cancellation/Interruption, in addition to many other insurance benefits and non-insurance assistance services.

It's wise to have a clear understanding of the terms of any program you're enrolled on. If you need to cancel before departure, for example, what are the deadlines and how much of your payment will you get back? Talk to your travel specialist if you're uncertain. Armed with this information, you can decide whether purchasing supplemental coverage might be something you want to consider.

Read the fine print

When comparing policies, no matter the provider, going forward it will be more imperative than ever to carefully read all fine print and ask questions if necessary. Make sure you have a clear understanding of the policy’s terms, and specifically any exclusions. For example, coverage could be affected or invalidated by government-imposed travel bans or advisories, certain weather events or natural disasters, or pre-existing medical conditions.

  • If I choose to postpone my trip, does the insurance policy allow for date transfers? How far in the future can I shift coverage? Are there circumstances where the insurance company will require me to reuse premiums instead of refunding them?
  • Could a CDC alert or a government-issued travel advisory, warning, or ban affect or invalidate coverage?
  • How does the policy define a "force majeure" or Act of God, and would the policy cover such an event?
  • After I make my initial travel deposit, how much time do I have to purchase a policy? (All companies have restrictions, and some have already or will soon tighten these windows.)
  • If I receive a refund, credit, or voucher from my travel provider or airline for a cancelled trip, how does that affect my claim reimbursement?
  • What are the guidelines for submitting a claim? What kind of documentation needs to be provided, and when?

Know that things will soon change

Right now, insurance companies are scrambling to process a flood of claims; in trying to mitigate their own risk, the policies they issue in the future are likely to be more restrictive. While no one has a crystal ball, we can look to past major events like the 9/11 attacks and the SARS epidemic, both of which resulted in industry-wide changes, for an idea of what’s to come. Some sources predict that:

  • Travel insurance may become more popular but could also become more expensive.
  • Newly issued policies may have tighter restrictions and may add wording specifically referencing quarantines or stay-at-home orders.
  • Companies may change CFAR terms to be stricter or even eliminate the option altogether.
  • Some companies may offer expensive pandemic riders or limit payouts; others may exclude pandemics from their coverage altogether.
  • Companies may offer a la carte products, allowing you to build a custom policy from a menu rather than pre-bundled products.

Remember this is an extreme circumstance

COVID-19 has exposed how gaps in insurance coverage could leave travelers stranded during an already stressful time, but it’s helpful to remember that this current pandemic is not the norm. In the long run, more mundane mishaps are much more common. Lost baggage, a missed connection, or a sprained ankle could derail your plans, and for these types of incidents, insurance coverage is unlikely to change drastically.

This is a rapidly evolving situation, and the information provided here is subject to change. If you have questions about a specific travel program or insurance policy, please contact your Holbrook specialist or insurance company directly.