The Travel Bug – When Travel is Too Risky
There was a recent time when the expression “travel bug” meant nothing more than an enthusiasm for travel, a need to explore and see the world. Since COVID-19, this term has taken on a far more ominous meaning as the majority of travel has come to a grinding halt and many cannot even risk seeing their loved ones within the same region for fear of contracting or passing the COVID virus. As of the beginning of December 2020, there have been over 65 million cases and over 1.5 million deaths worldwide due to COVID-19, with no assurance that this will end any time soon (1).
So the question remains – when it comes to your insurance, is it too risky to travel and what is the impact for those that have travelled or plan to do so?
Much like the medical or financial information you would typically provide on your insurance application, travel is an additional consideration at the time of underwriting for a new policy. For most cases and in the best of conditions, vacation and even work-related trips abroad have never been a concern. And for those countries deemed a little more hazardous to travel, insurance coverage is still available although more likely subject to extra premiums, coverage exclusions for death or illness and even outright refusal to consider a specific risk. Political and social instability, limited access to healthcare if required and a higher risk for crime and violence more easily perpetrated on a tourist may all be cause for a far more conservative approach within the insurance underwriting process. Until COVID-19 however, relatively few countries required ratings or exclusions and even fewer required refusal.
COVID-19 has had quite the negative effect on travel, whether it be local, regional or worldwide. Since March 2020, the Government of Canada advisory has remained the same: “Avoid non-essential travel outside Canada until further notice (2)” – simple but clear. However, we are still left with so many questions…is travel within Canada safe? How about a trip across the border to the United States where 90% of Canadians live within a two-hour drive of our southern neighbours; the border remains closed to drivers, except for essential services. What about a nice cruise on a luxury liner with all the amenities, including doctors and even surgical facilities; not recommended, according to the Government of Canada. And as winter approaches, the 100,000-strong members of the Canadian Snowbird Association are left wondering whether it is best to stay at home or seek warmer climes, as well as how to get there. IS IT SAFE?
If you already own inforce insurance, meaning life, disability or critical illness insurance, you will be covered at home or abroad, providing that there are no exclusions; an exclusion can entail travel to a specific region in the world that has been deemed unsafe for tourism. And when it comes to travel insurance, you have options, although just like life, disability and critical illness insurance, there may be exclusions depending on where you plan to travel. However, coverage is still an option and some travel insurers have even addressed the current COVID-19 virus by offering coverage in the case of a positive diagnosis.
As COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Canada, the insurance industry is working to best address the travel risk. However, the truth is that although exclusions and related restrictions are being applied by some insurance carriers to new policies, more often it is a case-by-case approach. If you wish to travel, your best bet is to discuss your travel specifics with your advisor to ascertain risk and determine your insurance options from the varying insurance carriers.
Whether we stay at home or decide to travel, staying safe is the most important thing alongside hand washing, distancing and mask wearing.