NZ Insurance Council writes off US travel for ‘foreseeable future’

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Stats NZ figures revealed just 231 New Zealanders took an overseas holiday in July.

This is a tiny number considering the previous monthly average for July was around 175,000 returning holiday-makers. However, it is also surprisingly large figure given the travellers had chosen to go on vacation during a global health crisis in which travel is virtually uninsurable.

Of the 3,107 short-term international travellers in July the majority half gave compassionate grounds or ‘visiting friends or relatives’ as the main purpose of travelling – one assumes many did this without insurance.

“What we consider ‘normal’ cover may not be possible until a vaccine is widely available,” says Tim Grafton, chief executive of the New Zealand Insurance Council.

Even those travelling on insurance issued before the beginning of the year would not be fully covered.

“Most travel insurance policies have exclusions for outbreaks of pandemics, epidemics and/or known events that could lead to a claim. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a known event since late January,” Grafton told the Herald.

Current travel insurance is either unobtainable or wildly inadequate for post Covid world. Most brokers have paused sales of overseas policies and pivoting to cover for ‘Domestic’ travel disruption. However there’s one thing that no broker will cover on trips, near or far: Covid 19.

Most insurance brokers – including have stopped the sale of overseas travel insurance policies since the declaration of the Pandemic in March. Lack of travel and unpredictability has made the sector unviable for most insurers.

Southern Cross resumed selling cover for “TravelCare and Working Overseas” clients, this month. However none of these policies would cover any expenses or complications arising because of Coronavirus.

Grafton said that the future of insurance – like overseas travel – was likely to be negotiated on a country by country basis, “depending on the level of risk”.

“Because of the extent of the outbreak its unlikely travel to the US would be covered for the foreseeable future.”

Still, this did not seem to dissuade the 11 passengers returning to New Zealand from holidays to the States, in July.

“We understand the industry is looking at developing new travel products with limited cover for COVID related costs,” said Grafton with regards to New Zealanders planning future travel overseas. This would likely cover expenses from medical, cancellation or travel interruption “but not boarder closures.”

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