July 14, 2021 by David Gambrill
Travel insurance is poised to start its post-COVID rebound, with Canadian governments relaxing restrictions to allow more travel within and between provinces.
“The travel insurance market will definitely rebound from this, because people are not going to stop traveling; we saw people travelling during the pandemic,” Anne Marie Thomas, insurance expert at InsuranceHotline.com, told Canadian Underwriter in an interview Wednesday.
“Once the greater percentage of the population is vaccinated, there is going to be more travel. My guess is there will be more travelers purchasing insurance. Because the pandemic certainly brought people’s vulnerability, in terms of their flights and their health, to the forefront. When we’re booking a trip, the last thing we’re really thinking about is, ‘Oh, what if I may have to cancel?’ And it may now be one of the first things people think about.”
Government of Canada figures show that just under 68% of the Canadian population has received received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of 3:30 p.m. on July 14. About 36% are fully vaccinated (two doses).
Following the ramp-up of vaccinations in Canada over the past few months, a recent survey suggests the travel insurance rebound may already be in progress during Summer 2021.
Twenty-three per cent of Canadians are prepping for a summer road trip, according to a national online survey of 2,500 Canadians conducted by InsuranceHotline.com. Of those, 12% are planning trips to another province, while 11% plan to travel within the province. Another 10% expressed interest in travelling to the United States.
“According to this survey, we’re seeing 10% of the respondents said that they might travel to the U.S., so that’s 10% more than this time last year,” Thomas commented.
At this point last year, Canada had severely restricted border access to the U.S. indefinitely, allowing only essential overland travel between the two countries. The ban did not cover trade or travel by air, and it has been extended multiple times.
As of July 5, 2021, fully vaccinated travelers who are permitted to enter Canada will not be subject to the federal requirement to quarantine or take a COVID-19 test towards the end of quarantine.
When Canadians finally do start to travel, they will need to pay particular attention to whether they are covered for trip cancellation in the era of COVID. There are coverage exclusions for trip cancellations due to contracting COVID.
“You might be hard-pressed to get an insurance company to cover you for trip cancellation [due to COVID],” Thomas said. “Cancellation is typically a coverage that comes into play for something that’s unexpected or unforeseen. So, in the last 15 months, COVID is not unexpected, nor is it unforeseen. So, people might want to be careful about looking for cancellation. They want to be very careful that they have a policy that will cover them in the event they contract COVID-19 and have to cancel.”
Thomas emphasized that there are two forms of travel coverage — trip cancellation insurance, and travel medical insurance.
On the medical side, recognizing a need prompted by the pandemic, some travel insurance providers have started to create coverage for COVID-19.
“Insurance is an evolving thing, so insurers have built in some COVID-19 coverage,” Thomas said. “Now, I would strongly advise that people check with their insurance provider. For example, Manulife…will cover you for up to $1 million for related medical expenses, but they will cover you for up to $5 million medical expenses for COVID if you’re fully vaccinated.”
Thomas also recommends purchasing travel medical insurance even for travel between Canadian provinces. Some things, such as air ambulances and crutches, may not be covered under a province’s medical health plan.
“For example, if you were going [from Ontario] to Banff [in Alberta], and you are in those lovely mountains, and you trip and break your leg, and they have to send a helicopter in to get you out — that might not be covered [by the provincial health plan],” Thomas said. “It would be covered under travel insurance.”
Depending on where you are injured, an uninsured ambulance ride to the hospital could leave a traveler with a hefty $1,000 bill to pay, Thomas pointed out.
Photo courtesy of iStock.com/tockstudioX