Our own Antony Martin caught up with ITIJ journalist Robyn Bainbridge about ROCK’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the road to recovery for travel.
Read the full interview on the ITIJ website here.
From adapting to FCO advice to keeping the travel industry afloat, how has travel insurance cover evolved throughout the COVID pandemic and why?
The COVID-19 pandemic is obviously unprecedented, and the nature of the situation means that product evolution has been required to cater for the demands and needs of holidaymakers. Initially, the consumer travel insurance market did not provide cover for pandemics, those that did, provided limited cover for medical emergencies leaving the customer under-insured pre-departure. However, things have moved on and the mainstream insurance industry has caught up so many travel insurance companies’ policies are now offering COVID-19 cover. However, it is important to note that many only offer this in case consumers fall ill during their trip and don’t offer pre-departure cover, in the event they or their travelling companion contracts COVID-19 prior to the trip, so consumers should double check the level of cover that is provided. We were one of the first insurance brands to launch a product which included protection against COVID-related issues both pre-departure and during a trip. It is also worth noting that warzone insurance brands which were some of the first to offer cover against FCDO advice often have very high excesses should a claim need to be made.
Over the last few months, many insurers and local tourism boards/governments (and insurers and airlines) have partnered to offer Covid-related medical travel cover and to incentivise travel. How do you think these have helped to promote confidence in travel and do you think that public-private partnerships will be a staple going forward?
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the importance of collaboration. Businesses, particularly in the travel industry, have found themselves having to re-work their business models and they have done this by finding effective ways to partner with appropriate brands / tourism boards to enhance their product offering. I do think these have helped instil confidence in travel and I think these collaborations will be key to the travel sector’s recovery going forward.
There are various lawsuits around refusals to pay out on claims being reported, what affect do you think these will have on travel insurers’ reputation and the overall perception of travel insurance?
I don’t know of any lawsuits relating the travel insurance, but there has certainly been an increase in customer complaints as a result of the pandemic. Most travel insurance policies weren’t designed to deal with a pandemic and in some instances that left a gap between what was covered and the customers expectation. When you combine this with confusion around who is responsible for refunding customers for travel cancellations, I can see how this and even lawsuits have occurred. As an industry we need to learn from what has happened and make improvements. Unfortunately travel insurance will never cover every eventuality but continues to provide essential protection for consumers whilst travelling.
Elsewhere, ombudsmen complaints are also up. How are travel insurers protecting bottom lines while also protecting against longer term brand damage?
There has been much confusion around which travel insurance policy to choose in light of the pandemic so one of our main priorities has been to simplify travel insurance by educating consumers on exactly what they are and are not covered for. We have introduced a comprehensive checklist on our website so consumers know exactly what level of protection they will receive and can make an informed decision. Therefore there are no surprises when people have to make a claim. Insurers come under fire when their policies are unclear so transparency is key for insurance brands to effectively protect their bottom line.
Finally, how long do you think it will take the travel insurance industry to get back on its feet? And how are you using the time in the meantime to enhance your offering?
The recovery of the travel insurance industry solely depends on how quickly the travel sector can bounce back, but it will, travel has provided its resultance time and time again. If more testing can be introduced at airports and a vaccine is rolled out soon, so the UK Government can either reduce quarantine restrictions to seven days or abolish the quarantine list altogether, more people will start travelling again. Due to the uncertainty of the pandemic, consumers understand the importance of taking out travel insurance now more than ever so we believe the travel insurance industry will recover quickly as soon as travel restrictions are lifted. We have also been emphasising the importance of taking out travel insurance for staycations in case people contract COVID-19 either before or during their trip or if their accommodation has to close due to the implementation of local lockdowns.
ROCK Insurance has continued to sell travel insurance throughout the pandemic. We have established solid B2B partnerships with the likes of Jet2, Midcounties Co-operative and On The Beach and have continued to adapt our products to allow customers who can travel, to travel safely. We also have some exciting partnerships in the pipeline which we cannot reveal just yet and we will be further enhancing our product offering to align with the ever changing demands of the trade and consumer.