A significant number of the UK’s major insurers have pulled out of the travel insurance market since the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK, although most insurers regard the move as a temporary measure until the economy stabilises once again.
The travel industry may have to undergo a long term strategy of raising prices across the board, so that emergency repatriation ABTA type funds can be established, to cope with future pandemics – otherwise it is unlikely that many people will pay £4000 for a family holiday upfront and hope that they can get home again if a virus disrupts travel arrangements. People will demand cast iron guarantees in the future and those cost serious money.
Which? contacted 75 insurance providers to establish if and how they were amending their provision of travel insurance following the global outbreak of coronavirus.
Their researchers found that 31 insurers, including well-known insurers such as Aviva, LV= and Direct Line, have temporarily suspended the sale of travel insurance to new customers as a result of the pandemic. A further 13, including Axa, Saga and Staysure, have changed aspects of their policies making them more restrictive.
Existing customers who booked their trips and purchased their insurance before the outbreak, or before insurers amended their terms to exclude claims related to coronavirus, should still be able to claim for any non-refundable costs of cancelled holidays or travel plans as a result of the virus.
However, for people looking to buy new cover for future holidays, there is now a shrinking pool of providers offering cover for travel.
Which? recognises the huge strain the travel insurance industry is under, but the sheer number of sudden changes to policies and inconsistent responses to the crisis from different providers could create confusion for consumers – leaving them at risk of travelling without cover or abandoning their travel plans entirely.
The consumer champion is urging insurers to work closely with the government and wider travel industry to ensure that travellers are not left struggling to find adequate cover, as the travel industry depends on people having the confidence to know they will be covered in an emergency.
Which? is also advising anyone purchasing travel cover during this period to carefully check policy details and exclusions prior to buying, or book new trips with an existing annual multi-trip policy where possible.
Gareth Shaw, Head of Money at Which?, said:
“Coronavirus has had a huge impact on the travel insurance market, with dozens of providers amending policies or pulling them altogether. This is creating confusion and uncertainty for consumers, who may feel they simply can not make plans for future trips in the circumstances.
“The government, insurers and the travel industry must work together to tackle the huge challenge posed by coronavirus, to ensure people feel confident enough to travel in the knowledge that they will be covered.”