Have a burning question you can’t find the answer to? Send us your query for an expert response. This month, it’s over to ABTA’s head of travel insurance, Ian Hall
I often get enquiries from customers as to whether they will be covered by their travel insurance if they are forced to cancel or incur extra expenses due to Covid. Can you provide me with some clarification?
It is great news that most countries have been now removed from the red list, and even the USA is welcoming back visitors from the UK. However, when it comes to travelling and travel insurance your customers still need to be aware of a few important things.
For fully vaccinated travellers the need to take a pre-departure PCR has been removed, but a day two test is still required. For those unvaccinated not a lot has changed. That means: taking pre-departure test, taking a pre-booked PCR test on day two and day eight once back in the UK, and self-isolating for 10 days, with the option to end self-isolation early on day five by taking an extra test.
At the start of the pandemic we saw a rush of travel insurers stating that they would not cover Covid-related claims. This is not uncommon when a totally unexpected event occurs as companies take time to assess their potential exposure.
However, most travel insurers now do offer cover that will provide for falling ill with Covid before travel and the need to cancel, or if you are taken ill with Covid while on holiday.
As the Covid-19 pandemic is what is referred to as a ‘known event’ there are certain situations that travel insurance will not cover.
You won’t be covered for cancellation if entry restrictions to where you are travelling change due to the pandemic, or if there is another local or national lockdown in the UK, preventing you from going on your trip.
You won’t be covered for anything if you travel to a country or region against the advice of the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).
Travel rules are easing but customers need to be aware as travel rules can change with little warning, as in a country could move to the red list if Covid cases suddenly rise.
Now, it is more important than ever to find out and understand what is and isn’t covered by travel insurance. There are still some policies out there with no cover for anything Covid or pandemic related, although they they are now in the minority, and this could still cause some serious problems for your customers.
Each issue, we introduce a member of the ABTA team. This time, it’s Helen Tustin, ABTA’s South Wales representative for the Council of Regions
I’ve been in the industry 40 years. Back in 2019 I left the company I was working for, two months before Covid hit, and set up my own company, Wellbeing Travel. In September I joined together with another two girls and we set up a partnership called the Travel Lounge. It’s appointment only, so we don’t have a high street offering, which works really well.
Things have been difficult in Wales, because we’ve had different rules to England all the way through. We were always two or three weeks behind the English rules, we had regional lockdowns before everywhere else and we opened up at different times. We didn’t have the travel app at first, we had to physically print papers. Masks are compulsory in shops and you need a Covid pass to get into just about any entertainment.
So, we’ve been mainly keeping abreast of where we are in Wales compared to the rest of the UK. We’ve done a lot of press with BBC radio and TV to get across to the government that we want the same rules as everybody else. It’s challenging to explain this to the public because they are totally confused by it all. Some of us feel like information bureaus.
We’ve had a lot of travel companies folding or shutting offices down in Wales. Coping with demand is manageable now, but if we get busier, what will happen then? We’ve lost a lot of talented staff in the travel industry. They really struggled in the pandemic. Their stress levels suffered because the operators would change holidays three or four times at the last minute and they were dealing with the customer on the other side. You can see why they’d leave after that.
People don’t want to be tied to a desk 24/7 and they’ve also found different things to do on the weekends rather than just going shopping – so the high street is changing. A lot of shops are closed.
Coming out of this, customers have learnt their lesson about booking holidays online, and they’ve learnt the importance of travel agents. Clients want to know their money’s safe – that’s the biggest thing.
ABTA backing and ATOL protection helps with customer confidence. But it’s how we come out of this in January which will be a big decider about what happens. A lot of people are still cautious about travelling – especially older people. Lots of them are waiting to see how Christmas pans out.
We’ve got to be optimistic – because being pessimistic won’t get us anywhere. Our industry will survive this and those that do survive it will come out stronger. The next challenge will be getting the fresh talent in, the next generation, and getting them up to speed.