Safety fears lead more to buy travel insurance

More travellers, including visitors at the Natas travel fair (left) earlier this month, are buying travel insurance or as part of their travel packages.
More travellers, including visitors at the Natas travel fair (left) earlier this month, are buying travel insurance or as part of their travel packages.PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Demand up with greater awareness, says industry; short trips are the exception

More travellers are buying travel insurance amid greater awareness and rising concerns about safety, say industry players.

Insurance company AIG Singapore, for instance, has seen "double-digit growth" in travel insurance in the last two years.

"This is due to a number of factors, including high mobility among Singaporeans who are travelling overseas more frequently, as well as greater awareness about the importance of travel insurance among consumers to cover unforeseen events and costly medical expenses," said AIG Singapore vice-president and head of group personal insurance Ignatius Chng.

Travel agency ASA Holidays has also seen a growing interest in travel insurance, which it offers via an external party, said director Shannon Hee.

Visitors at the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (Natas) travel fair earlier this month, for instance, were buying such insurance as part of their travel packages.

"...everyone right now tends to get travel insurance, especially with the concerns about terror attacks, natural disasters and even health matters such as the Zika virus," Ms Hee said.

Travel insurance is particularly popular with families, she added.

Ms Jane Chang, head of marketing communications at Chan Brothers Travel, said 80 per cent of their customers opt for travel insurance.

"The decision to purchase travel insurance is not dictated by destination but more by prudence as Singaporeans become savvier travellers over the years," she noted.

A survey commissioned by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), released on Aug 14, found that nine in 10 travellers were aware of travel insurance and 93 per cent had bought travel insurance before.

Taking a short trip was the most common reason for not buying insurance.

A separate AIG Singapore survey last year also found that about a third of Singaporeans believe travel insurance is not necessary for short holidays of fewer than three days, or when trips are to nearby countries.

However, there are some travellers, such as bank employee Catherine Lau, 59, who get themselves covered even for short trips.

Ms Lau travels abroad with her husband about 10 times a year, including regular short trips to Kuala Lumpur to visit friends. "All our travel is covered by insurance," she said.

The STB survey also found that one area of travel insurance was less well known.

Out of over 400 respondents, about half were not aware of travel agent insolvency coverage, which protects travellers if the travel agent through which they booked a holiday goes bust.

"We advise travellers to find out more about the terms and conditions of their travel insurance policy so they know what they are covered for," said Mr Chng.

AIG's Travel Guard policy, for instance, allows travellers to claim for the loss of irrecoverable travel deposits or fares paid in advance to the travel agent, if their trips are cancelled before they start because of the agent's insolvency.

One savvy buyer is Madam Chew Peck Khoon, 59, who compares the offerings of two or three insurance companies each time when buying travel insurance.

"I want to make sure I get the best protection," said the IT professional, who also ensures that her policies cover travel agent insolvency.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2016, with the headline 'Safety fears lead more to buy travel insurance'. Print Edition | Subscribe