Helping consumers to understand insurance is no easy task, which is why the industry has created a series of animations tailored for social media.

With the task of buying insurance generally regarded as a chore by consumers, the industry has devised an eye-catching social media travel campaign aimed at getting its message across on the importance of getting the right cover.

The Insurance Experiments — a stand-alone website promoted on Facebook — uses animations lasting barely 20 seconds that feature a cast of scientist characters finding out more about insurance.

The initiative has already delivered three million online impressions and brought thousands of people to the website by focusing on property, motor and small business insurance. Now it has been extended to cover travel insurance.

Facebook audience

The travel pages cover issues such as the disclosure of medical conditions, the need to have adventurous activities covered correctly, and some of the many ways that travel insurance can come to the rescue of the consumer.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) is behind the project, although there’s little sign of its branding or logo on the pages of Insurance Experiments. The animations appear in Facebook feeds and face competition for our attention, which is why they look very different to the usual ABI materials.

Charlie Campbell, the ABI’s senior policy adviser for travel insurance: “Our new Insurance Experiments are designed to encourage consumers to spend just a little longer thinking about the cover that they buy for their trips away.”

Correct travel cover

The travel insurance industry paid claims worth £385 million in 2017, the highest since the ash cloud disruption of 2010. While insurers pay the equivalent of a claim every minute, there remain concerns that customers do not always consider all of their needs before buying a policy.

This is highlighted by travel group Abta’s current campaign targeting the 2.5 million British adults who have been on winter sports holidays without checking they have appropriate insurance. Many wrongly assume they are automatically covered for winter sports as part of their cover, putting them at risk of costly medical bills if they have an accident.

The ABI’s Campbell added: “It’s important to not only look at the cost of the policy but to ensure it accurately reflects your personal circumstances, and takes account of where you’ll be going and what you’re likely to be doing.”

The travel trends expected to shape holiday choices in 2019 have been revealed by Abta, alongside its “12 destinations to watch”.

Responsible tourism is set to be a key factor in holiday bookings in 2019 as consumers pay closer attention to the sustainability credentials of tour operators and the trips they offer.

Other travel trends for the year ahead — revealed in industry body Abta’s annual list — include the resurgence of the “trusted expert” who is able to meet demand for personal and tailored travel advice.

The influential report, which is based on market information and consumer insights, also suggests that people remain committed to taking holidays despite the ongoing political and economic uncertainty.

Rise of wellness travel

According to the report, two-fifths of people cited sustainability as important when booking a holiday, a sharp increase from 24% in 2014.

There’s now much greater awareness of plastics and tourism’s impact on local communities, prompting many companies to announce plans to make holidays more sustainable in the long term.

Abta highlights the rise of wellness travel, with this market growing twice as fast as general tourism as people look to alleviate stress and boost wellbeing.

There’s also a focus on services-based technology to make the lives of travellers easier. Examples include airport luggage drop-off services, facial recognition technology replacing passports and suncream booths.

12 destinations to watch

With 46% of people likely to visit a country they’ve never been to before in 2019, Abta’s 12 destinations to watch showcase the diversity available to UK holidaymakers.

The report reveals the hidden gems of familiar destinations, such as the extensive mountain biking opportunities in Madeira and the city break destination, Thessaloniki.

Many of the places on the list offer good value breaks, thanks to cheap flights to Poland or a favourable exchange rate in South Africa. Bookings to Bulgaria next summer, a longstanding value for money destination, are already up 30% on this time last year.

The other destinations on the list are Costa Rica, Denver in Colorado, Galicia in Spain, Japan, Jordan, Uzbekistan and Western Australia.

 

Travel firms tackle plastic pollution

Single-use plastic is being eradicated from planes and holiday resorts as companies look to preserve the oceans they rely on for business.

Plastic pollution and its threat to oceans and marine animals is being tackled in a series of environmental initiatives by airlines and travel companies.

Thomas Cook’s #noplaceforplastic campaign has pledged to remove 70 million single-use plastics — equivalent to 3,500 suitcases full — within 12 months.

The holidays giant said research from WWF showing that the amount of plastic litter going into the Mediterranean increases by 40% during the summer months proved the direct link between the travel industry and plastic pollution.

Recycling schemes

Thomas Cook is taking action on items such as straws and stirrers, as well as establishing a pilot scheme in Rhodes to trial sustainable alternatives to plastic products.

As more than a fifth of holidaymakers say they are more likely to throw away plastic rather than recycle while away from home, the company has also announced a scheme to turn discarded plastic inflatables, lilos and swimming armbands into bags and holiday accessories.

Other tour operators and hotels have participated in this summer’s ABTA Make Holidays Greener campaign, helping to remove an estimated 49 tonnes — equivalent to the weight of around 30 cars — through schemes such as offering filtered water instead of bottled water.

Ryanair pledge

Elsewhere in the holiday industry, Hamburg-based TUI Cruises has pledged to give up plastic disposable products on its Mein Schiff fleet by the end of 2020.

And budget carrier Ryanair has said it will eliminate all non-recyclable plastics from its operations by 2023. This will include using environmentally friendly alternatives such a bio-degradable cups, wooden cutlery and paper packaging.

A debate at the World Travel Market (WTM) in London recently considered the efforts of the travel industry in tackling plastic pollution.

WTM London’s Paul Nelson said documentaries such as the BBC’s Blue Planet II had greatly increased awareness among consumers and spurred the industry into action. He added: “The speed with which companies have pledged to tackle plastic waste has been remarkable.”

More holidaymakers go it alone

Solo holidays are growing in popularity, driven by travellers not wanting to compromise on where they go.

The number of Britons going on holiday alone has jumped by a third since 2011, research from travel industry body ABTA has revealed. One-in-six (15%) people have taken a solo holiday in the past year, up from 12% in 2017.

Being able to do and go where they want was the most common reason cited by solo travellers in the ABTA research, aided by the widespread availability of wi-fi and smartphones.

The solo trend is prompting many tour operators to expand their offer for individual travellers, with some also reviewing their single supplement charges.

Popular solo destinations

There are now many more options for those who want to travel alone, such as being able to join a group activity trip or take a cruise.

Asia is a particularly popular destination, with 22% of solo travellers going there over the last 12 months, compared to an average of 15% among all types of holidaymaker.

As well as having the freedom to do what they want (76%), other reasons given to ABTA for taking a solo trip include wanting to take some time out (63%) and to visit a new destination (37%).

The most likely group to travel on their own are those over 75, with one in five respondents having done so in the past year. But the trend has been most noticeable among 35-44 year-olds, with an increase of 11% from last year.

Sharing holiday experiences

Navigating the world alone is now less daunting thanks to the availability of wi-fi and use of smartphones and travel apps. Solo travellers can keep in touch with friends and family, sharing holiday experiences via social media. The “solotravel” hashtag on Instagram has more than 3.5 million posts.

ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “Going on holiday by yourself means you don’t have to compromise on your choice of destination, your itinerary or the activities you take part in.

“Whether they’re single or just want some ’me time’, people now have an incredible choice of holidays and destinations to choose from.”

The value of buying travel insurance as early as possible is highlighted after figures show a big jump in cancellation claims last year.

The travel insurance industry paid out claims worth £385 million in 2017, the highest figure since £455 million was awarded during a year of disruption caused by the Icelandic ash cloud in 2010.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said the 2017 increase reflected a significant rise in cancellation claims due to airline disruption, bad weather at home and abroad, and the rising cost of the average family holiday.

The total number of travel insurance claims also increased by 30,000 year-on-year to 510,000, amounting to one case every minute of the year.

Medical costs

Medical expenses again accounted for the bulk of the claims expenditure, with 159,000 travellers requiring treatment costing insurers around £201 million.

One Briton needed £90,000 of treatment for a fractured rib and punctured lung, whilst another required a £20,000 payout to treat a blocked intestine. Even a smaller injury, such as damage to a knee ligament, cost £3,800 to treat.

Medical expenses far outweigh non-medical claims, with the ABI pointing out that the average medical bill of £812 for a millennium traveller was three times more expensive than their other claims.

Cancelled holidays

The £145 million paid out on 174,000 claims for cancelled holidays was up £15 million from the 159,000 seen in 2016. There were also 86,000 people who received £17 million worth of support for baggage being delayed or money lost whilst travelling.

The spike in the number of claims for cancelled holidays reinforces the industry message that consumers should not wait until the last minute to buy travel insurance.

Charlie Campbell, the ABI’s policy adviser for travel, said: Medical expenses can often cost tens of thousands of pounds, whilst the large increase in cancellation claims shows just how important it is to purchase your cover as early as possible.

“Our question to consumers is: can you afford to not have travel insurance?”

A ban on cold calling by claims management firms is a further step in the fight against fictitious holiday sickness claims.

The campaign to stop fraudulent food poisoning claims by British holidaymakers continues to gain momentum after new rules were introduced on nuisance calls.

The new Financial Guidance and Claims Act means firms that make unsolicited calls touting for personal injury or PPI business will first need the recipient’s consent. Failure to do so risks a fine up to £500,000.

A 500% rise in holiday sickness cases between 2013 and 2016 has been blamed on claims management companies (CMCs) encouraging holidaymakers to submit exaggerated or false sickness reports.

The problem cost Mallorcan hoteliers an estimated £42million in one year alone, even though the number of illness reports in resorts stayed the same.

Big drop in claims

There have been recent signs that the travel industry is winning the battle against the fraudsters, amid reports in Spain of a big drop in claims.

The turnaround follows high-profile court cases in which holidaymakers have been found guilty of making fraudulent claims and fined thousands of pounds, given community service orders or sent to prison.

There’s also been a concerted effort to tackle misconduct in the claims management industry. Its government-backed regulator said holiday sickness cases were now back to levels seen in 2015, with the number of CMCs operating in this area down to 140 in January from 225 the previous summer.

Warnings issued

An audit by the regulator involving CMCs that handle holiday sickness cases resulted in warnings being issued to seven firms, while another eight surrendered their authorisation either before or after the checks.

In one case, the regulator listened to recordings of marketing calls in which sales agents told clients that they will be entitled to £2,500 if they say they had been ill and that they didn’t need any evidence of their illness.

A fixed costs regime for solicitors that handle sickness cases has also helped control the problem, while the Solicitors Regulation Authority has reminded its members about the need for proper due diligence checks.

Animal welfare considerations mean Thomas Cook will no longer offer tickets to attractions that keep killer whales.

Trips by a major tour operator to parks featuring killer whales in captivity have been removed from sale after a review of its animal welfare policies.

Thomas Cook’s decision to stop selling tickets to SeaWorld in Florida and Loro Parque in Tenerife from next summer follows feedback from customers, as well as scientific evidence provided by animal welfare specialists.

The move comes despite the parks passing an audit by Thomas Cook 18 months earlier, when the company’s initial animal welfare policy resulted in it removing 29 out of 49 attractions, including those involving captive elephants.

Animal welfare policies

In a blog post, chief executive Peter Fankhauser explained that an addition to the company’s policies meant it would no longer sell any animal attractions that keep orcas in captivity.

He said: “This was not a decision we took lightly. We always said that we would continue to review our policy, conscious that the more we got into this area, the more we would learn, and conscious also of changing customer sentiment.”

Fankhauser acknowledged that both parks had passed the initial audit and made improvements to the way they treat animals.

He added: “We respect and applaud the work that has been done, and we will work with both over the next 12 months to prepare for our exit. We will also continue to work ourselves to identify more sustainable alternatives.”

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism is now a big consideration for tour operators, with this year’s Travel Trends Report by ABTA highlighting the role it plays in shaping holiday choices.

Most tour operators assess the suitability of their supply chains using ABTA’s Global Welfare Guidance for Animals in Tourism, which was the first of its kind in the world when it was introduced in 2013.

The rise in sentiment has also followed wildlife documentaries such as David Attenborough’s ‘Blue Planet II’ — the most watched programme of 2017 — and campaigns including Sky News’ Ocean Rescue Scheme.

More cases of disruptive behaviour on planes have increased the prospect of tighter controls on the sale of alcohol at Britain’s airports.

Calls for airport bars, shops and restaurants to be subject to the same alcohol laws as the rest of the UK are growing after the release of new figures on incidences of disruptive passengers.

The Civil Aviation Authority received more than 200 such reports between January and the peak holiday period in mid-July, with 417 and 415 across all of 2017 and 2016 respectively. In 2015, there were 195 reports.

As around half of the cases are thought to involve alcohol, industry body Airlines UK said it was time to remove the current exemption for airports from the 2003 Licensing Act.

Duty-free alcohol

Leading airlines have been vocal in their demands for tougher action. They include Jet2, which recently had to divert a Birmingham-to-Ibiza flight due to “appalling and aggressive behaviour” from members of a stag party. Police met the aircraft in Toulouse and offloaded the group.

EasyJet wants to make the consumption of duty-free alcohol on planes a criminal offence, while Ryanair has called for airports to ban the sale of alcohol before 10am and limit the number of drinks per boarding pass to a maximum of two.

The campaign for changes in licensing laws is backed by the Institute of Alcohol Studies, whose Fit to Fly report found as many as 60% of adults have encountered drunk passengers whilst on a flight.

The study also recommended that duty-free alcohol bought in a shop is sent directly to the departure gate in a sealed container, or placed directly in the hold.

Home Office consultation

The Home Office is expected to launch a consultation on whether to amend the Licensing Act in relation to airports. It could give local authorities the power to restrict the timing of alcohol sales, or the ability to close down bars.

The Airport Operators Association believes an industry code of practice and the launch of its One Too Many campaign are the best ways to tackle the “small minority of passengers that are disruptive”.

One Too Many has been live in ten UK airports this summer, highlighting the costs of drinking to excess when travelling by air. These include heavy fines, up to two years in prison, an airline ban and a diversion fee up to £80,000 for the most serious in-flight incidents.

 

Airline policies on children flying alone are changing, with higher age limits and the withdrawal of unaccompanied minor schemes.

Parents who need to send their children unaccompanied on flights to and from Britain are finding their travel plans a little harder to organise.

Flybe has just dropped its unaccompanied minor product, which cost £79 each way for airline staff to supervise children at either end of the flight.

A similar “Flying Nanny” scheme — Skyflyer Solo — was withdrawn by British Airways at the start of 2017 after a decline in bookings.

Minimum age for travel

Now BA has announced the minimum age of a person permitted to travel alone on one of its flights has increased to 14 years, up from 12.

In addition, it said that those aged under 16 and travelling alone must complete a parental/guardian consent form before travel. It points out that its partner airlines may have different regulations, age limits and charges.

Among other UK-based airlines, easyJet and Thomas Cook have an age threshold of 14 years, while the limit for Ryanair is 16.

Flying nanny services

Flying nanny services have long been popular with expat families so their children can travel to and from Britain. Virgin Atlantic is one of the few major airlines still to operate a service, but with an adult fare applied to the unaccompanied children.

It has been reported that rising insurance costs are one of the factors behind the reluctance of airlines to continue with the service.

In January, Flybe blamed “ever increasing costs” for hiking the price of its unaccompanied minor service from £39.

The airline pointed to increased legislation and the requirement to evidence and comply with the necessary levels of safety, protection and scrutiny associated with unaccompanied child passengers. Following the price rise, it dropped the service altogether in May.

Holidaymakers are being warned that carrying cold remedies or sleeping pills in certain countries could land them in trouble.

Some little-known facts on carrying medicines abroad have been highlighted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in a bid to prevent British tourists falling foul of local laws this summer.

In Japan, for example, medication containing pseudoephedrine — found in the likes of Sudafed and Vicks — is banned.

Diazepam, Tramadol, codeine and a number of other commonly prescribed medicines are viewed as ‘controlled drugs’ in many countries, including Greece and the UAE. This means that failure to comply with the local rules could result in arrest, a fine or imprisonment.

Sleeping pills, anti-anxiety pills and strong painkillers all require a licence in Singapore, whilst in Qatar cold and cough remedies are controlled substances and must be accompanied by a prescription.

Medication advice

With Britons now travelling further afield, the FCO is concerned that too many holidaymakers are more interested in researching the weather than the local laws and customs.

Currently, just one third of people get advice on taking prescribed medication abroad before they travel.

With nearly half the population in England on prescribed medication, there could be around 21 million people in the UK potentially at risk at borders if they fail to do their research.

Travellers face having to get through their holiday without the medication they need as it could be confiscated at the border.

Foreign travel checklist

Britons are being urged to check the entry requirements section of the FCO travel advice page for their destination country.

Some countries such as Costa Rica and China also require visitors to bring a doctor’s note with their prescribed medication.

The FCO’s Foreign Travel Checklist also has links to information and tips from health professionals about travelling with medicines.