TORONTO — If you were to study a graph of travel booking trends this month, you’d notice a significant spike in travel insurance sales after a specific day – November 8.
This is the day the United States reopened its borders to fully vaccinated travellers, entering the country both by air and by land, and it is this day that has prompted a surge in insurance inquiries and bookings among Canadians who, up until then, were not able to cross the land border to visit family and friends, to shop, and to enjoy extended stays at their winter homes.
The surge comes as no surprise to Stephen Fine, President of Snowbird Advisor, who tells Travelweek that call volumes for insurance sales and inquiries more than doubled when the United States first announced the border reopening.
“Travel medical insurance is essential for snowbirds given their age, long-trip durations and the fact that many of them have pre-existing medical conditions or at risk for experiencing medical issues,” he says. “Most snowbirds have always been diligent about purchasing travel medical insurance, even before the pandemic. Having said that, the pandemic may have been a wakeup call for the minority of snowbirds who may not have purchased travel insurance in the past.”
What insurance providers are saying
Travelweek reached out to several Canadian travel insurance providers to corroborate Snowbird Advisor’s findings. Both Allianz Global Assistance Canada and TuGo are reporting a definite uptick in Canadians purchasing and inquiring about travel insurance since Nov. 8.
Brad Dance, Chief Customer Officer at TuGo, tells Travelweek that the Customer Service team has received an “unprecedented” amount of inquiries, with travellers ready to renew their annual policies as well as make new purchases. He also notes how the recent update to Canada’s testing requirements, which eliminates the need for a PCR test for trips 72 hours or less starting Nov. 30, will have an even bigger impact on travel insurance purchases.
“The pandemic has brought on great pent-up travel demand and cross-border trips have always been an important travel market for TuGo,” says Dance. “Canadians took over 11 million auto trips across the line in 2019, making this market the largest segment of Canadian international travel.”
A similar story is being shared by Allianz, which saw outbound sales in November reach nearly twice that of September. According to the company, while seasonality certainly plays a factor, the rapid growth is beyond what the company normally sees at this time of the year.
“Opening the U.S. border has created an increase in insurance sales with U.S. as the destination,” the company tells Travelweek. “It’s also offered a larger signal – that travel is resuming, for all Canadians. As a result, we’ve seen growth in travel to many destinations around the world, not just the U.S.”
What insurance products are best?
At Allianz, a service called Pre-Trip Assistance is available that allows customers to get a better understanding of what to expect in their destination country and connect to resources for travel requirements and government advisories. With travel rules and restrictions constantly changing, Allianz says this service is proving to be more valuable than ever.
“We always encourage customers to consider their specific and personal needs when travelling and recommend working with a trusted travel professional to ensure the right coverage for the right circumstances,” says Allianz.
TuGo recommends its Multi Trip Annual Emergency Medical Insurance, which is now available with a two-day trip length, making it an ideal option for short or spontaneous trips across the border. This two-day policy option is even easier to purchase at any age as there isn’t a medical questionnaire (otherwise required for travellers 60+).
Dance also notes that the Multi Trip Annual Emergency Medical Insurance is more economical than buying multiple single trip policies, and that travellers can leave at any time, without the hassle of re-applying each time. And with a family plan, family members can travel together or separately, and always be covered.