Mandatory requirements boost industry

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Mahesh Anchan, chief operating officer of global travel services company Vasco Worldwide, has predicted an increase in the number of Middle Eastern residents buying travel insurance for their trips, fuelled in part by the number of countries that are making travel medical insurance a prerequisite for visitors. Anchan noted: “According to our international assessment, we expect a growth spike in global and regional travel insurance markets, primarily fuelled by rising healthcare costs, which are a major concern for governments around the world. An uninsured visitor or tourist can be a major liability for state healthcare systems, which is the reason why more countries are making travel insurance mandatory.” Certainly, for Vasco Worldwide, which has seen 40-per-cent year-on-year growth of travel insurance sales, the increasing need for travellers to prove they have insurance has been a good thing, particularly in the Middle East, said Anchan. The company has plans to enter 10 new markets with its travel and insurance proposition, including countries in the Gulf Cooperative Council, Oman and Bahrain.

While countries in the Schengen Area of Europe have long had travel insurance with a minimum medical cover of €35,000 as a prerequisite to granting a visa to a traveller, other countries that have recently followed suit include Turkey, South Africa, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Thailand is also considering introducing such a requirement.

An ongoing problem that the industry must face is awareness of limits on travel insurance policies, Anchan explained: “Some travel companies may issue travel insurance just for using it as documentation for visa application, which may not be as effective as full travel insurance policies valid for all sorts of travel related contingencies, including health and even repatriation of mortal remains in case of unfortunate mishaps. Travel insurance offered by credit card companies and medical insurance companies [is] basic insurance, which covers a minimum requirement of insurance for people to travel to Schengen countries. Customers need to look at travel insurance in a more [holistic] manner so that it is useful across all aspects of travel, be it issues related to booking of hotels, airlines and other services.”