The travel industry is betting big on insurance as the primary assurance needed to win back the confidence of tourists.
For travelers eager to take to the skies but concerned about the consequences of contracting COVID-19 abroad, companies and governments are joining forces with insurance companies to provide free coronavirus coverage in hopes of reviving the travel industry.
In early August, the Canary Island’s Department of Tourism, Industry and Commerce introduced a novel partnership with French insurer AXA. The joint initiative offers national and international visitors coverage on all medical and health expenses should they test positive for COVID-19 during their stay on the islands in an effort to restore the dwindling tourist numbers.
As of mid-July, over 50% of hotels in the Canary Islands had reopened with varying capacity, some allowing for occupancy rates of up to 80%, according to The Guardian. Although uncertainty still looms over travel plan—especially as Spain’s tourism minister revealed on July 22 that hotels were experiencing more cancellations than bookings that month—the popular vacation spot hopes that the added complimentary coronavirus insurance will aide tourist footfall.
In a similar move, Portugal announced on August 7 that the country will offer government-endorsed COVID-19 specific insurance for foreign travelers, with prices starting from €37.20 ($43.85). Taking a harder approach, Aruba announced that all foreign visitors must purchase Aruba Visitors Insurance as of June 24. This is required prior to travel and in addition to any personal insurance the traveler may already have. Other countries are adopting similar requirements; anyone looking to vacation in Costa Rica, St. Maarten, Tahiti, Turks and Caicos and the UAE will have to provide proof of health insurance in order to enter the country.
It’s not just countries working to reassure visitors; airlines are also desperate to win back travelers’ confidence. On July 23, Emirates became the first airline to cover COVID-19 expenses and quarantine costs. “Emirates is proud to lead the way in boosting confidence for international travel,” Emirates Group Chairman and chief executive Sheikh Mohammed bin Saeed Al Moktoum said in a release. “We know people are yearning to fly as borders around the world gradually reopen, but they are seeking flexibility and assurances should something unforeseen happen during their travel.”
Following attempts to curb over-tourism in 2019, international tourism has been hard hit by COVID-19, with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) predicting that the global travel industry will fall by 60% in 2020 and possibly 80% in the event of a second wave of the virus.
With more travel incentives in place, the question is whether people are ready to travel overseas. It seems many are; according to a survey by travel insurance company World Nomads, which asked over 2,000 visitors on its site about their travel objectives “post COVID-19,” over a third said they would start traveling within the next month and 55% said within the next three months.
But, as COVID-19 numbers continue to fluctuate, safety, hygiene and insured protection are at the forefront of travelers’ minds. These new travel initiatives are banking on insurance as the assurance people need to feel confident in taking the leap from localized stays to further-flung destinations.