For followers of travel news, 2010 witnessed one of the most disruptive incidents of all time. A single volcanic eruption in Iceland closed most of Europe’s skies. About 19,000 flights were cancelled each day, with over 10 million people stranded. Emerging market currencies closely tied to tourism, like the Kenya shilling and Turkish lira, fell.
Some 30 per cent of total worldwide airline capacity was cut: European capacity by 75 per cent, Africa by 30 per cent, the Middle East by 20 per cent, and the rest of the world by 15 per cent. Of the affected passengers, it would be interesting to know how many had travel insurance to cover such an eventuality.
Two reports made very interesting reading last week: The PwC report on “Africa Insurance Trends,” and the KMPG “Sector Report on Insurance in Africa.” Both documents have insightful statistics and information on the state of insurance and its penetration in Africa.
The entire African insurance market only accounted for 1.6 per cent of global premiums in 2013, at $72.4 billion; the world total was $4.6 trillion. The common underlying sentiment on the reports was that most Africans are struggling to meet their basic needs, and therefore insurance is not a priority.
However, it is important for travellers to ensure that they have the right kind of insurance to cover their needs. Depending on the destination, travel insurance may be a requirement. If you intend to travel to Europe, specifically entering a Schengen member country, it is mandatory to present travel health insurance at the visa application stage.
While many will buy this kind of insurance to meet the visa requirements, few are aware or even question what the cover entails.
Starting from basic covers that include medical transportation, repatriation and evacuation, some of the travel insurance offers in the market give additional benefits like war and terrorism cover, hijack, hostage or wrongful detention cover, legal expenses cover, follow-up treatment in your country of residence, and accidental death cover.
Travellers need to understand the inclusion and exclusion clauses: Some insurers offer personal liability cover as part of the package, which means that if the traveller is legally liable for accidental death, bodily injury or illness of any person or loss or damage to property, the insurer will pay for claims made against you.
However, some insurers will exclude liability when the person is in control of a mechanically propelled vehicle while travelling.
East Africa is playing host to an increasing number of people travelling for leisure. Assuming a trip has been cancelled or curtailed as a result of illness, injury or death, products like a cancellation/curtailment cover are useful especially when payments are non-refundable.
What most travellers do not know is that they are eligible for compensation when flight delays are in excess of 12 hours – some airlines would prefer that travellers remain ignorant.
But where a passenger has insured their flight against delays, they should ask the airline concerned to confirm the delay in writing, and track all expenditures incurred as a result of the delay. This will help when making claims from the insurer.
Lost baggage is always an issue when flying, therefore travellers should always consider taking a baggage and valuables cover. Items that most insurers cover, within limits, include cash, jewellery, cameras and laptops.
Premiums on travel insurance vary, depending on the length of stay at your destination, usually from a week’s cover to 180 days. It is cheaper to get an annual cover if you travel frequently than cover for a single trip.
Most insurance providers have a cap on the age limit of the insured party. Some cardio and respiratory conditions are excluded for persons over the age of 69 years, as well as all persons who have received advice or treatment during six months prior to the journey. Full disclosure at the time of travel insurance purchase is advised.
Before setting off on your next trip, be sure to check with your insurer what products they offer. Keep in mind that the cheapest cover may not be ideal.
This post was earlier published in The East African Magazine July 2, 2016 Why you need to get travel insurance