TORONTO — If travel insurance wasn’t considered a top priority for travellers before the global pandemic, it certainly is now.
Studies show that COVID-19 has led to an increase in travel insurance purchases, particularly in recent weeks with borders reopening around the world. According to Travelweek’s 2021 Consumer Survey, launched in June and garnering 2,599 responses from Canadians across the country, 77.4% of respondents are more likely to purchase travel insurance post-pandemic. U.S.-based Yonder Travel Insurance also found that travellers whose trips were cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic are now considering travel insurance more than ever. Not only that, insurance is being purchased earlier on in the booking process, by travellers who are younger than usual.
When analyzing recent quotes, Yonder found that 91% of them were being run within 30 days from the traveller’s trip deposit date, a 9% increase from 2019. The company attributes this increase to the time-sensitive benefits of ‘Cancel for Any Reason,’ the most popular and asked-about travel insurance benefit in 2020. It also found that while older travellers have always been more risk-averse than younger ones, the number of millennials purchasing travel insurance is on the rise, with a marked increase in millennial quotes on Yonder between 2019 and 2021.
“Quite a bit of the market is still dominated by baby boomers,” says Beckah Morris, Operations & Marketing Manager at Yonder. “Yet, we’re seeing more and more millennials shopping around and asking questions about the importance of travel insurance.”
While Yonder’s findings are based on U.S. purchasing habits, Travelweek wanted to know whether these trends were being seen in Canada, too.
Kathy Starko, President of Canadian-owned and operated TuGo, told us that the company is seeing travellers book Emergency Medical Insurance on average 5-7 days earlier than pre-pandemic years, and that Trip Cancellation & Trip Interruption is also being purchased earlier than previous years, by about 30 days.
“That said, travellers are also more aware of, and concerned with, cancellation and refund policies like never before,” says Starko.
Over at Ontario Blue Cross, Josiane Cousineau, Vice President Marketing and Public Relations, tells Travelweek that it is still too early to be able to measure any tangible trends among Canadians travelling out of the country, as travel restrictions only recently loosened.
“However, we always suggest to our clients to purchase travel insurance coverage well in advance of any trip to ensure you are protected the minute you leave your province of residence,” says Cousineau. She adds that Ontario Blue Cross currently has a limited-time offer to purchase an annual multi-trip plan for the price of a per trip plan, which encourages clients to purchase in advance for any future travel and save considerably at the same time.
When it comes to whether younger travellers are purchasing insurance at an increasing rate, Cousineau says that Ontario Blue Cross is anticipating an uptake among the younger demographic, “as COVID-19 has really brought awareness to the need for this type of protection to this group.”
She adds: “Prior to COVID-19 there was a misconception among the younger population that they didn’t really need travel insurance, but with the global pandemic it is very clear to everyone that if you want to travel, insurance is essential.”
Starko at TuGo says that with travel being so limited right now, the company doesn’t have any current data on whether younger travellers are buying travel insurance more often. “However, as travel opens up again, we do anticipate the pent-up demand for travel will equate to more travellers of all ages choosing to buy travel insurance.”
Starko does note two other key trends that TuGo has noticed as a result of the pandemic: an interest in both domestic coverage and COVID-19-specific coverage.
“We’ve seen an increase in ‘Within Canada’ travel insurance coverage purchases, as the borders are not open to all types of travel and people are concerned about their health coverage as they travel outside of their home provinces,” she says.
“We also saw a trend when COVID coverage was available, as of October 2020, that it was being purchased,” adds Starko. “There were some Canadians who were confident in their decisions to travel outside of the country and we were able to support them in their travels. Then, as vaccination rates rose, we began offering COVID-19 coverage included within our Emergency Medical Insurance. Ultimately, we always want to ensure our customers are taken care of.”
Here’s an overview of TuGo’s and Ontario Blue Cross’ COVID-19 coverage plans:
On June 22, 2021, TuGo incorporated COVID-19 coverage into Emergency Medical Insurance for Canadian travellers who:
- Have been partially vaccinated with a Health Canada-approved dose at least 14 days before their departure date
- If available to them, they’ve received or scheduled any subsequent vaccine doses before departure
- Aren’t yet eligible for a vaccine due to their age
This coverage is applicable while the Government of Canada’s Level 3 travel advisory is in place, and travellers must follow their provincial/territorial health authority’s vaccination protocols.
For Canadian travellers who are unvaccinated for any reason other than age, they can still get coverage by adding TuGo’s new COVID-19 Insurance – Unvaccinated plan to their Emergency Medical plan. This plan offers up to $1 million in Emergency Medical coverage and also includes a Trip Interruption benefit if the Government of Canada’s travel advisory changes to a Level 4 (avoid all travel) during their trip and they choose to come home.
ONTARIO BLUE CROSS
Emergency medical care coverage includes the following:
- Up to $5,000,000 in coverage, COVID-19 covered during their trip, for both vaccinated* and unvaccinated travellers. Ontario Blue Cross has no reduction in coverage based on vaccination status.
- + living expenses (accommodation and food) in case of isolation or quarantine following a medical emergency resulting from COVID-19 for all trip durations (no limit on number trip duration)
*vaccinated = before departure, it takes 2 doses and have waited until the period recommended by Public Health (3 weeks) after the vaccine for the person to be considered immune.