Travel health insurers answering call for assurance amid COVID-19

by Leo Almazora30 Nov 2020

Pent-up demand for travel is motivating the majority of Canadians to make plans for 2021, but lingering concerns about the COVID-19 are keeping most of them focused on domestic adventure.

In a recent survey of 1,000 Canadian consumers, the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THIA) found that 80% plan to travel in 2021, though most have no intentions of going outside the country anytime soon. Among those surveyed, 53% said they’ll only start thinking about cross-border travel when a vaccine against the novel coronavirus becomes available.

Absent a vaccine, three fourths (74%) said carriers, from airlines to train operators, should allow for physical distancing by blocking off seating or staying below maximum capacity before they can comfortably book any travel.

Around six tenths (62%) said they also want travel health insurance providers to give assurances that they have appropriate coverage in case they or their travel companions come down with COVID-19 while on holiday.

“The travel health insurance industry evolved dramatically at the pandemic's outset when March Break travel was interrupted,” said THIA Executive Director and spokesperson Will McAleer. “Support centres became the only resource for travellers scrambling to return.”

Only 29% of survey participants said they’re open to travel outside Canada, with their most major concern being questions around returning safely. Among those with plans to fly international next year, 25% they would answer COVID-19 screening questions untruthfully in order to get on a flight home.

“The travel insurance industry is responding to consumers' needs for assurances,” McAleer said, citing a growing number of THIA members offering specialized COVID-19 coverage either as riders or baked-in additions to their policies. “Many companies are waiting for the Canadian government to reduce the level three travel advisory before offering new insurance products."

While there’s still no certainty around when the travel advisory will be lifted or modified, Canadians still have certain travel options available to them. THIA offered some reminders for those considering going on vacation:

  • Ask their travel health insurance provider about extended coverage options for COVID-19, recent policy updates, or changes;
  • Consult a healthcare provider if they have any concerns about their health;
  • Consider different details within their travel plans – how long they’ll be away, whether they plan to take multiple trips throughout the year, what activities they’ll be doing, and so on – and find a policy tailored to their needs; and
  • Be familiar with the Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, which helps provide travelling Canadians with additional confidence that their company is supporting their rights as a consumer while making them aware of their responsibilities.