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Holidaymakers Warned to Prioritise Travel Insurance

Insurance Council & Ministry of Foreign Affairs And Trade Warns Holidaymakers to Prioritise Travel Insurance

• 1 in 5 Kiwis don’t take out travel insurance to certain destinations
• Common misconception that medical treatment in Australia & Pacific is automatic – medical evacuations from Pacific can cost over $100,000
• New Zealand embassies overseas receive 40,000 queries annually from Kiwis with travel issues

New research by Insurance Council members shows that 1 in 5 New Zealanders are taking significant risks when they travel to certain destinations without comprehensive travel insurance.

“What starts off for many Kiwis as the ‘trip of a lifetime’ can quickly become the ‘holiday from hell’ so it’s important that overseas travellers take out travel insurance as part of their preparations,” says Insurance Council Chief Executive Mr Tim Grafton.

A survey of 3,000 New Zealanders indicates that over half of Kiwis travelled overseas in 2013 but 22 percent of those who went to China and 18 percent to Australia had no travel insurance. People travelling alone to Australia and on short stay trips remain some of the least likely to be insured.

“Given the substantial risks and costs it’s vitally important that travellers factor comprehensive travel insurance coverage into their travel plans, the consequences of not being insured can be incredibly serious and expensive,” says Mr Grafton.

“A sobering reminder of the very real risk was the recent case of a Whangarei traveller who was only persuaded to take out travel insurance just before her trip to Canada and was then involved in an accident that resulted in her becoming a paraplegic,” says Mr Grafton.

“Thankfully her insurance covered her for $1 million and she was safely repatriated to New Zealand and received the medical care she required,” he says.

Travel insurance provides access to 24-hour worldwide assistance. The Travel Insurer’s emergency assistance provider can make any necessary arrangements with doctors and hospitals overseas and will also arrange to fly travellers back to New Zealand if suitable treatment cannot be provided.

New Zealand’s Embassies offshore received nearly 40,000 consular queries during the year to 30 June 2013, with cases ranging from Kiwis suffering a serious accident or injury offshore, to lost passports or being the victim of a crime.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade Consular Divisional Manager Lyndal Walker recommends travellers make buying travel insurance a pre-departure priority.

“Kiwis can see Australia and the Pacific as our own neighbourhood. But it’s important to remember that access to medical treatment or making changes to disrupted holiday bookings, if there is a cyclone, for example, can be extremely costly.

“Medical evacuation from a Pacific Island can cost more than $100,000 if you have to return to New Zealand urgently for treatment,” says Ms Walker. “While Embassies and High Commissions can provide advice and support, they can’t cover medical and travel costs for New Zealanders who fail to take out travel insurance.”

Hospitalisation, medical treatment and medical evacuations can be very expensive. Without insurance, the costs can end up as long-term financial burdens.

Mr Grafton says: “It’s important to understand that travellers are not automatically covered for medical treatment even when travelling to nearby destinations such as Australia or the Pacific Islands. This is a common misconception.”

It is also very important for travellers to check the wording of their travel insurance so they fully understand what it does and doesn’t cover.

“Most travel insurance companies have general exclusion clauses in their travel policies which apply to certain types of activity, usually high-risk and potentially dangerous activities. People need to be fully aware what these exclusion clauses apply to and avoid exposing themselves to the potential risk,” he says.

Also, travellers need to remember to disclose any pre-existing medical conditions as many Insurers will not automatically cover these, unless they are disclosed and accepted by the Insurer. In some cases an additional premium may need to be paid to cover the extra risk of a pre-existing medical condition interrupting your travel.

Overall the number of trips covered by travel insurance in 2013 increased on the previous year, up two percent to 87 percent but the number of insured travellers to the UK and Ireland dropped by 3 percent.

ENDS

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