Brits uncovered

One in five UK travellers are still running the risk of sky-high medical bills when travelling abroad through not taking out travel insurance, in spite of recent high-profile cases highlighting the significant risks of doing so to both health and finances, according to the 2011 ABTA Consumer Trends survey. This fact may be partly explained by 21 per cent mistakenly believing that the UK Government will cover their bills in the event that something goes wrong – one in four 15 to 24-year-olds think that this is the case. Seventeen per cent of survey respondents also believe that travel insurance is unnecessary when travelling in Europe if they have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which provides access to basic state medical care; and a further 26 per cent mistakenly believe that an EHIC will cover their repatriation costs if they fall ill or have an accident and have to be flown back to the UK. John de Vial, ABTA’s head of financial protection, said: “It is very worrying that so many people are putting their health and finances at risk by travelling abroad without insurance. Many wrongly assume that it is the Foreign Office’s responsibility to pay for their hospital bills, particularly younger travellers. In the current economic climate, customers should be careful to purchase insurance at the time of booking their holiday to obtain cancellation cover for redundancy as well as any potential illness prior to travelling. ” Lynda St Cooke of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office added: “We remain very concerned at the number of people travelling without comprehensive travel insurance and then ending up severely out of pocket. If British travellers get into difficulties overseas, there are things the nearest British Embassy or Consulate can do, including contacting friends and family for them, and giving them information on how to safely transfer money from the UK. But consular staff cannot pay hospital bills for British travellers, nor fly them home if they run out of holiday money.” According to ABTA’s survey, less than a half of consumers – 44 per cent – purchased travel insurance for trips within the UK, exposing them to the risk of losing money as they would be unable to claim for cancellation charges if they fell ill or lost their job before travelling. Sixty-eight per cent think that travel insurance is more important for trips abroad than in the UK. All sales of insurance by travel agents have been regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) since 2007, with many agents consequently choosing not to sell insurance due to the high cost and extra bureaucracy of regulation. Travel agents now account for less than 17 per cent of sales of travel insurance in the UK and, at the time the law was enacted, ABTA warned that an unintentional consequence of FSA regulation would be an increase of uninsured travellers. It has called on the government to reverse FSA regulation as part of its war on red tape. The ABTA survey also revealed that ‘financial protection’ is the second-highest rated consideration to British holidaymakers, following ‘safe and secure accommodation’ in first place. Mark Tanzer, chief executive of the organisation, said: “even in a year when customers are tightening their belts , the lowest cost is not their number-one consideration. The message from our customers is clear: financial protection is a top consideration when booking their holidays.” The survey asked consumers which booking elements are essential or important to them, and the top 10 elements given by respondents were: safe and secure accommodation; a financial protection scheme; ATOL financial protection; ABTA membership; knowledgeable staff; ease of transport connection; range of holidays on offer; convenient location; a well-known name in travel; and, finally, lowest price. Meanwhile, low-cost Irish airline Ryanair has warned that over a third of passengers are risking huge medical bills if they have an accident or become ill abroad, after a survey of 4,000 passengers found that over a third travel without travel insurance. While half of those surveyed (46 per cent) held annual or multi-trip insurance and one in five (19 per cent) purchased single-trip cover, 82 per cent with insurance did not know if their policy offered ski, business travel or sports (golf) cover. Worryingly, 90 per cent of those who travelled without insurance were unaware that medical repatriation flights could cost them over €18,000 should they become seriously ill when abroad. Ryanair travel insurance paid an average of €2,200 for medical expense claims last year, and it urged passengers to protect their holiday, possessions and health.

One in five UK travellers are still running the risk of sky-high medical bills when travelling abroad through not taking out travel insurance, in spite of recent high-profile cases highlighting the significant risks of doing so to both health and finances, according to the 2011 ABTA Consumer Trends survey. This fact may be partly explained by 21 per cent mistakenly believing that the UK Government will cover their bills in the event that something goes wrong – one in four 15 to 24-year-olds think that this is the case.
Seventeen per cent of survey respondents also believe that travel insurance is unnecessary when travelling in Europe if they have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which provides access to basic state medical care; and a further 26 per cent  mistakenly believe that an EHIC will cover their repatriation costs if they fall ill or have an accident and have to be flown back to the UK. 
John de Vial, ABTA’s head of financial protection, said: “It is very worrying that so many people are putting their health and finances at risk by travelling abroad without insurance. Many wrongly assume that it is the Foreign Office’s responsibility to pay for their hospital bills, particularly younger travellers. In the current economic climate, customers should be careful to purchase insurance at the time of booking their holiday to obtain cancellation cover for redundancy as well as any potential illness prior to travelling. ”
Lynda St Cooke of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office added: “We remain very concerned at the number of people travelling without comprehensive travel insurance and then ending up severely out of pocket. If British travellers get into difficulties overseas, there are things the nearest British Embassy or Consulate can do, including contacting friends and family for them, and giving them information on how to safely transfer money from the UK. But consular staff cannot pay hospital bills for British travellers, nor fly them home if they run out of holiday money.”
According to ABTA’s survey, less than a half of consumers – 44 per cent – purchased travel insurance for trips within the UK, exposing them to the risk of losing money as they would be unable to claim for cancellation charges if they fell ill or lost their job before travelling. Sixty-eight per cent think that travel insurance is more important for trips abroad than in the UK. 
All sales of insurance by travel agents have been regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) since 2007, with many agents consequently choosing not to sell insurance due to the high cost and extra bureaucracy of regulation. Travel agents now account for less than 17 per cent of sales of travel insurance in the UK and, at the time the law was enacted, ABTA warned that an unintentional consequence of FSA regulation would be an increase of uninsured travellers. It has called on the government to reverse FSA regulation as part of its war on red tape.
The ABTA survey also revealed that ‘financial protection’ is the second-highest rated consideration to British holidaymakers, following ‘safe and secure accommodation’ in first place. Mark Tanzer, chief executive of the organisation, said: “even in a year when customers are tightening their belts , the lowest cost is not their number-one consideration. The message from our customers is clear: financial protection is a top consideration when booking their holidays.” The survey asked consumers which booking elements are essential or important to them, and the top 10 elements given by respondents were: safe and secure accommodation; a financial protection scheme; ATOL financial protection; ABTA membership; knowledgeable staff; ease of transport connection; range of holidays on offer; convenient location; a well-known name in travel; and, finally, lowest price.
Meanwhile, low-cost Irish airline Ryanair has warned that over a third of passengers are risking huge medical bills if they have an accident or become ill abroad, after a survey of 4,000 passengers found that over a third travel without travel insurance. While half of those surveyed (46 per cent) held annual or multi-trip insurance and one in five (19 per cent) purchased single-trip cover, 82 per cent with insurance did not know if their policy offered ski, business travel or sports (golf) cover. Worryingly, 90 per cent of those who travelled without insurance were unaware that medical repatriation flights could cost them over €18,000 should they become seriously ill when abroad. Ryanair travel insurance paid an average of €2,200 for medical expense claims last year, and it urged passengers to protect their holiday, possessions and health.