With the mid-year holiday season upon us, many fortunate South Africans are planning their escape from the current winter temperatures to warmer destinations. Statistics show that, although outbound (and inbound) travel is only expected to reach pre-pandemic levels by around 2027, there has been a significant spike in locals opting for holidaying abroad since air travel re-opened post-pandemic. One key travel item that South Africans shouldn’t forget, however, as they re-adjust to international adventures, is travel insurance to safeguard against potential issues such as trip cancellations, interruptions, baggage losses or emergency medical coverage and evacuations, among others.
This is according to Jason Veitch, Head of Travel Insurance at Travel Insurance Consultants (TIC) – a wholly owned Santam specialist business and South Africa’s largest travel insurance company – who says that TIC’s travel insurance data confirms an uptick in locals travelling globally again.
He notes that in a post-pandemic world, travellers are now more aware of risks than ever before. “The pandemic highlighted the importance of travel insurance globally and most vacationers now make it the top priority in their ‘travel case’. “We have seen a surge in travel insurance post-covid-19 with a shift to comprehensive insurance being the most popular choice. Comprehensive cover is particularly popular when travelling to countries where there is a high exchange rate such as the United States or England” says Veitch.
He explains that a comprehensive travel insurance policy provides cover against multiple travel risks, though some features may differ depending on the insurer. This includes:
- Hospitalisation cover for pre-existing illnesses
- Cancellation and curtailment: to recover costs should you need to cancel or cut your trip short due to illness or injury
- Accidental death and disablement/permanent disability
- Travel delays
- Missed connections
- Lost or damaged luggage
- Personal liability
Veitch highlights some additional considerations when purchasing a travel insurance policy. “It’s important to take note of exclusions such as cover for pre-existing conditions, as well as various cover and age limits. Also, make sure you are covered against potential injuries arising from any high-risk activities you may have planned during your holiday such as paragliding, parasailing or bungee jumping, among others.”
He explains that the most important benefit of a travel insurance policy is to have access to emergency medical cover and related expenses. Veitch says that more than half of TIC’s medical claims are accident and injury related. He adds that the policy’s premium is paid in Rands but the cover for medical expenses, which can quickly escalate into millions, is settled in foreign currencies. “With the current depreciating value of the Rand, this benefit is more important than ever,” he asserts.
Another trend that TIC has noted among its clients is that Mauritius remains the most popular international travel destination among South Africans. This is supported by data released by the island nation, which showed that South African arrivals exceeded pre-pandemic levels by 2% during April and May of 2022. “The tropical beach resorts of Mauritius have always been a favourite winter getaway for South Africans due to proximity, and, since pandemic restrictions were lifted in 2022, locals have flocked back to the island destination.”
Veitch emphasises that budgeting for a vacation is one of the most important parts of planning a holiday. “As part of this process, it is important to ensure you do thorough research and put aside adequate funds for a travel insurance policy that suits your needs. As to when the best time to purchase a travel insurance package is, Veitch says it’s best to buy cover as soon as possible once flights have been booked and you have committed to your travel plans.
“A travel insurer is best placed to offer advice on your travel insurance needs and a policy can be obtained directly through your insurer, your broker or through your local travel agent. The earlier you purchase your policy, the sooner you can obtain the widest possible cover available,” concludes Veitch.