With the school holidays already in full swing, many people may be planning to travel overseas during this longer holiday term in order to escape the cold South African winter. However, many travellers forget to ensure they are covered for financial losses caused by unintentionally interrupted travel plans, or medical emergencies, while travelling abroad.

This is according to Dave Honeyman, Executive Head at Stalker Hutchison Admiral (SHA) – the largest liability underwriting management agency (UMA) in Southern Africa – who says that tourists are particularly vulnerable when they travel given they are often not familiar with the emergency procedures in a particular country, coupled with the risk of sustaining injuries abroad. “As a bare minimum, everyone who travels must have travel insurance in place in order to cover potential financial losses.”

Honeyman explains that travel insurance is an insurance policy for people travelling to a country where they could be faced with expenses in foreign currency. “The main purpose of travel insurance is to ensure a traveller has sufficient medical cover whilst abroad and a qualified company to provide guidance and assistance in the event of an emergency.”

Sustaining serious injuries while travelling can be devastating, says Honeyman. “Apart from the physical and psychological trauma, the financial implications could leave tourists stranded, or worse, indebted for life. Medical claims could range from R15 000 for emergency dentistry to R6 million for hospitalisation and evacuations. The cost depends entirely on where the incident occurs and the type of injury or illness. In some cases a tour guide or hotel can be held responsible for a traveller’s injury if negligence on their part can be proven, but uninsured tourists who fall victim to natural disasters will be liable to cover costs themselves.”

Before anyone leaves South Africa, they need to purchase a policy which best suits their needs, says Honeyman. “For instance, when traveling to a country which is prone to natural disasters, it is imperative to choose a policy that includes cover specific to these incidents.”

Tailored travel insurance policies can also protect consumers against losses related to accommodation booked which has been deemed uninhabitable as a direct result of natural disaster, says Honeyman. “These policies can also provide cover if transport is cancelled as a direct result of unforeseen weather conditions, such as severe storms and volcanic eruptions.”

He explains that there are various benefits of travel insurance, but the main focus is medical for emergency incidents, including evacuation, repatriation, hospital guarantees and so forth. “However, there are also benefits such as luggage, cancellation, curtailment and travel delay, among others.

“It is important for consumers to realise that travel insurance is not a substitute for medical aid, which means scheduled, routine doctor visits and elective surgery are not covered. Travel Insurance is for unforeseen, emergency situations.”

When selecting travel insurance, it is important to choose a partner that specialises in travel and are experts in this field, says Honeyman.

“Specialised travel insurance is essential for today’s modern traveller. Most people often assume that they are healthy and forgo travel insurance, but travel can be stressful and people don’t realise the effect it has on their bodies,” concludes Honeyman.

Article credit: (FA News article – 6 July 2015 – Dave Honeyman, SHA)