Summer 2021 has given Canadians hope, with COVID-19 case numbers declining and an ever-increasing percentage of the population fully vaccinated. As pandemic rules slowly disappear, planning a vacation is back on everyone’s must-do list, but should travel insurance be something to consider as well?
According to a 2020 survey conducted by Rates.ca, a financial product comparison site, in the three years before the pandemic, 40 per cent of Canadians who travelled outside of the country purchased travel insurance. And only 21 per cent of vacationers planning a domestic out-of-province/territory trip were likely to purchase travel insurance, according to a survey from consumer data consolidator Statista.com released in March, 2021.
“Travel isn’t going to be the same as the past, and travellers need to be prepared,” says Kellee Irwin, vice-president of Orion Travel Insurance.
All insurance companies now offer COVID-19 coverage as part of their travel packages, which provides for emergency medical care, quarantine accommodation, ambulance transportation and repatriation should a traveller fall ill with the virus. WestJet continues to include COVID-19 insurance with its flights and vacation packages until Oct. 31, 2021, while Air Canada and Air Transat offer insurance packages that can be added to any flight or vacation.
Trip cancellation and trip interruption are also worthy insurance inclusions for travellers, Irwin says. Trip cancellation insurance reimburses for pre-paid and non-refundable vacation expenses if a trip has to be cancelled before departure. Trip interruption insurance will reimburse for costs when a trip has to end suddenly, such as the hefty price of a last-minute flight home.
Many Canadians have travel insurance through a credit card or included with an existing extended health plan. But credit card policies are often minimal, and typically have payout limits based on age and pre-existing conditions. Coverage for prescriptions and costs associated with an injury or if you test positive for COVID-19 isn’t a guarantee.
Canadians also sometimes assume their provincial health coverage is all they need to go anywhere in the country. But even domestic travellers may want to increase their insurance.
“Know your policy and know your health,” says Brad Dance, chief customer officer at Canadian-owned insurance company TUGO. “Going to the hospital isn’t an issue for Canadians, but the use of an ambulance, access to private hospital rooms or costs relating to travel companions aren’t covered. Travel insurance takes care of all those costs.”
For those considering a trip outside of Canada, Irwin recommends being pro-active about knowing the rules and restrictions in their holiday destination and at home.
Currently, the federal government has issued a level three advisory related to COVID-19, which recommends avoiding all non-essential travel. If you choose to travel and a country closes its borders because of an outbreak or Canada returns to a level four, which advises no travel at all, it’s important to be aware how this will affect your plans and the costs that could be incurred, she says.
“Travellers will need to be prepared that their resort may get shut down or an attraction could have a COVID outbreak.”
Tim Macdonell, chief executive officer of Elite Sport Tours, a Canadian-based company specializing in domestic and international sports-focused holidays, has always recommended clients book travel insurance. Now, “we’ve become more adamant about pushing it to clients or at the minimum educating them on the importance of having coverage to protect their booking,” he says.
According to Dance, insurance companies will offer preferable policy conditions to those who are fully vaccinated. From TUGO, a possible travel insurance plan would include $5-million in coverage for fully vaccinated people, compared with $500,000 or $1-million for those who are not.
“Life continues and you tend to be more adventurous when you travel,” Irwin says, “so why not be prepared?”
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