UAE holidaymakers are putting themselves at increased risk of facing serious financial repercussions by not taking measures to adequately cover themselves in the event of a travel emergency, experts warned yesterday.
Describing community awareness about travel insurance in the UAE as “probably among the lowest in global markets”, Phil Ashkuri, Head of General Insurance at Nexus Group, warned that residents often underestimate the criticality of comprehensive travel coverage.
“As is the case with most non-mandatory coverage, travel insurance penetration in the UAE is exceptionally low. This is a trend that urgently needs to be addressed – particularly in a market like the UAE, where travel is a prominent part of our lifestyle,” Ashkuri said.
Estimates from Nexus Group, the region’s largest independent financial advisor, show that less than 1% of customers in the UAE are covered by a comprehensive travel insurance plan.
However, this figure excludes minimal coverage individuals may have opted for from a third-party, such as a bank or part of a visa application.
“Many residents rely on travel insurance that banks offer as part of a membership or credit card package, or that which is required by the Schengen visa,” explained Ashkuri.
“The problem is that such policies tend to offer very limited cover, and are often not sufficient when it comes to claiming incurred losses.
“A bank policy, for example, may offer USD 250,000 worth of coverage, which may seem like a lot, but in actually may not be enough if you are in need of emergency medical care in a country where healthcare services are very expensive. A more inclusive policy, however, can give you up to USD 1,000,000 worth of coverage.”
Travel insurance can be classified into two broad categories: Medical Expenses, such as emergency care, emergency transportation, repatriation, and cost of first aid and rescue, as well as Travel Inconvenience, such as trip cancellation or curtailment, delayed departure after 12 hours, delayed baggage, loss of passport, personal accident, or personal liability.
“While most people tend to associate travel insurance with the latter category, medical coverage is of equal if not greater importance, especially for those who may not have international coverage as part of their medical insurance policy,” said Ashkuri.
“Most insurance companies offer travel policies with and without U.S. and Canada coverage because of the cost of healthcare in those countries.
Medical expenses in the U.S., for example, can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars, while a Schengen policy only covers emergency medical expenses and not those associated with flight and baggage delay, or loss of personal items.
“Similarly, people should not assume that their Home Contents policy will cover them internationally in the event of theft or loss of personal belongings,” added Ashkuri.
“For example, if you are backpacking through Europe and suddenly have all your valuables taken from you, you need to know that you will be compensated for this loss. These details vary from policy to policy, but will make all the difference when it comes time to make the claim. It is crucial that people read and understand the fine print so that they are not left stranded should a disaster strike.”
UAE residents can buy comprehensive travel insurance for themselves and/or family members for a single trip (term coverage) or multiple trips (annual coverage) where the journey starts and ends in UAE.
On average, worldwide term coverage, including the U.S. and Canada, can range between Dh100 for 5 days to Dh550 for 92 days. Meanwhile, annual (multi-trip) coverage, which may prove more cost efficient for frequent travellers, can range between Dh600 and Dh900, also including the U.S. and Canada.
Another type of available travel coverage is inbound travel insurance for people visiting the UAE who would like be covered during their temporary stay in the country – so, for example, a visiting family member.
“At the end of the day, you are investing a nominal amount for peace of mind and a cushion that will soften the blow of a travel emergency,” said Ashkuri.
“The question is, do you take a small precautionary measure that could save you from a massive financial setback, or take the risk of travelling unprotected only to potentially face devastating expenses later, adding, of course, to the emotional toll of such crises? The choice may seem like an easy one, but it’s yours to make.”