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Festive Season Loading: Here’s What You Need To Know About Travel Insurance

One key travel item that South Africans shouldn’t forget as they get ready for their year-end international adventures, is travel insurance – to safeguard against potential issues such as trip cancellations, interruptions, baggage losses or emergency medical coverage and evacuations, among others.

Although outbound (and inbound) travel is only expected to reach pre-pandemic levels by around 2027, the 2022 -2023 Santam Insurance Barometer report shows that there has been a considerable uptick in travel insurance policy sales since international travel reopened late in 2021 and throughout 2022.

Santam’s travel insurance division, Travel Insurance Consultants (TIC) – a wholly owned Santam specialist business and South Africa’s largest travel insurance company, also noticed a greater percentage of travellers purchasing more comprehensive cover when travelling internationally.

While the increase in travelers taking risk management steps is encouraging, Jason Veitch, Head of TIC – notes that there has been a notable jump in travel insurance claim incidences, mostly for accident and injury-related medical expenses, with the average cost of medical claims up two-fold in 2022 compared to the preceding 12 months. TIC has also noticed that the cost of medical claims in 2023 has increased well above normal inflationary amounts, making travel insurance even more important.

He explains that a comprehensive travel insurance policy provides cover against multiple travel risks, though some features may differ depending on the insurer. This includes:

·       Emergency medical and related expenses

·       Hospitalisation cover for pre-existing illnesses

·       Cancellation and curtailment: to recover costs should you need to cancel or cut your trip short due to illness or injury

·       Accidental death and disablement/permanent disability

·       Travel delays

·       Missed connections

·       Lost or damaged luggage

Veitch highlights some additional considerations when purchasing a travel insurance policy for your year-end break. “It’s important to take note of exclusions such as cover for pre-existing conditions, as well as various cover and age limits. Also, make sure you are covered against potential injuries arising from any high-risk activities you may have planned during your holiday such as paragliding, hiking, or bungee jumping, among others.”

He explains that the most important benefit of a travel insurance policy is to have access to emergency medical cover and related expenses. Veitch says that more than half of TIC’s medical claims are accident and injury related. He adds that the policy’s premium is paid in Rands but the cover for medical expenses, which can quickly escalate into millions, is settled in foreign currencies. “With the current depreciating value of the Rand, this benefit is more important than ever,” he asserts.  

Veitch adds that including insurance in your vacation budgeting is one of the most important parts of planning a holiday. “As part of this process, it is important to ensure you do thorough research and put aside adequate funds for a travel insurance policy that suits your needs.”

As to when the best time to purchase a travel insurance package is, Veitch says it’s best to buy cover as soon as possible once flights have been booked and you have committed to your travel plans.

“A travel insurer is best placed to offer advice on your travel insurance needs and a policy can be obtained directly through your insurer, your broker or through your local travel agent. The earlier you purchase your policy, the sooner you can obtain the widest possible cover available,” concludes Veitch.