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Preparing for safe travels: The importance of travel insurance

11 June 2024 Santam

As we welcome the second quarter of 2024, excitement is building among many South Africans as they prepare to leave their everyday routine for the winter school holidays. For some, the anticipation extends abroad as they plan to exchange the cold winter weather for that of the northern hemisphere’s summer and sunshine.

The Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) reported a steady increase in passenger numbers with a total of 27.2 million passengers travelling through its airports in the 2023 financial year end, compared to 23.1 million the same period two years prior.

Jason Veitch, Head of Travel Insurance at Travel Insurance Consultants (TIC) – a division of Santam Group, said he’s optimistic about the consistent upswing in air travel numbers both locally and globally. He notes that tourism is a major contributor to GDP and job creation in South Africa, however, he cautions that holidaymakers must invest in a comprehensive travel insurance policy to be prepared for any unexpected setbacks.

"We've witnessed several disruptions in the travel industry in recent years such as the increasing effects of the climate crisis, geopolitical tensions as well as the fluctuations of the economy. Airlines are grappling with fluctuating fuel prices, leading to occasional flight cancellations and missed connecting flights. While airlines try their best to accommodate passengers, the solutions may not always align with the passenger’s itinerary, or their budget" cautions Veitch.

Veitch observes that the uptake of TIC's travel insurance policy has seen a considerable boost, echoing the rise in passenger numbers. He points out that medical claims are the most claimed benefit of a travel insurance policy, accounting for 45% of claims submitted and 62% of the total cost of claims. Following medical claims are luggage-related claims, including damage and theft, which make up 28% of total claims. Cancellation, curtailment, or extension claims made up 14% of submitted claims to TIC, with the remaining 13% of TIC claims related to travel delay, luggage delay, death, and disablement.

Veitch emphasizes three critical reasons for purchasing a travel insurance policy:

• the high cost of medical treatment abroad,
• the potential significant financial loss should things go wrong, or a holiday be cancelled, and
• the relatively low cost of a travel insurance policy compared to the potential expense of not having comprehensive coverage.

When purchasing a travel insurance policy, Veitch advises South African travellers to consider the medical limits on the policy, never incur a significant expense without confirming with the travel insurance provider, understand the terms and conditions of the policy, and appreciate the value of using a travel agent for travel arrangements.

"Everyone deserves to have a wonderful, stress-free travel experience. This is made more possible when the traveller plans properly and purchases the correct travel insurance policy," Veitch concludes.

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