Whether you’re relaxing on a peaceful cruise or undertaking adventures in far-flung destinations, travel is meant to give us a valuable chance to escape the stresses and strains of everyday life.

But the return on your holiday investment can quickly diminish when plans go awry.

And that has been the case for thousands of people in 2022. This year has been something of an ‘annus horribilis’ for travellers, with strike action and staff shortages leading to flights being cancelled at the last minute and several airports, such as Amsterdam’s Schiphol, implementing capacity limits in a bid to maintain traveller welfare.

Many of these problems are a legacy from the pandemic, which might be the source of far less disruption today but continues to loom large over the sector. As well as the risk to personal health that the virus still presents, there is also the threat of travel guidance changing at short notice.

An appreciation of protection

Even for travellers who have been lucky enough not to have been caught up in any such problems, uncomfortable headlines can leave a lasting impression. The net effect is that we are becoming increasingly aware of the potential challenges that can arise when travelling and the need to protect ourselves through appropriate insurance cover.

This is underlined by research which shows that the vast majority of people (85%) acknowledge the important role that travel insurance plays in providing financial support when we are impacted by unforeseen events, including accidents, injuries and medical issues.

Furthermore, increasing numbers of travellers are adopting a ‘more is more’ strategy when it comes to travel cover. According to research from a major comparison site, 65% of travellers are opting for more expensive policies, while there is also a decline in the number of those taking out lower cost, less comprehensive policies. This trend has prompted forecasters to suggest that the global travel insurance market size will grow by $9.88 billion in the five years to 2026.

According to data from the Association of British Insurers (ABI), travel insurers paid out £377m to travellers who needed help while they were abroad in 2019 based on 471,000 claims. More than half of this total (£197m) related to the costs of emergency medical treatment.

Counting the costs

The scale of the sums involved here provide an indication of the costs involved in the unfortunate and complicated situation where healthcare issues affect travel. Of course, specific costs will depend on the circumstances and the individual, but they can easily escalate, for example when a person needs to be repatriated to the UK under medical supervision.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office highlights some of the possible financial realities from which travel insurance can protect international travellers. It cites as an example a cost of £100,000 for someone with a stomach bug or infection treated in a hospital in the USA and requiring new return flights.

In light of the level of potential sums involved, it is perhaps sobering that policyholders are not always sure about exactly about what is included and excluded. Indeed, research points to the fact that just 54% know what their policy covers. So, while a more cautious travelling public increasingly understand the value of travel insurance and are increasingly likely to purchase higher levels of cover, there remains the potential for travellers to find themselves in an unexpectedly difficult situation if certain treatments or urgent medical help is required when overseas.

Getting into the detail

Most policies will typically cover core areas, such as emergency treatments, accommodation and travel expenses, but the precise extent of cover will relate to the terms written in a specific policy. This makes it all the more important to get into the details of the small print and also to be clear on any exclusion clauses, ensuring the policy provides a level of cover appropriate to your travel plans.

Those planning the relaxing cruise, for example, will need to consider the fact that access to hospitals is compromised when at sea, making it more expensive to access specialist medical care. Indeed, some cruise operators in the wake of the pandemic have made it mandatory for passengers to have travel insurance cover in place to a certain level.

Alternatively, those with a more adventurous travel itinerary will need to consider whether their policy provides protection for the specific sporting activities they have planned. Winter sports and skiing, for example, will almost certainly require additional cover.

Mentally working through ‘what if’ problem scenarios might not fit naturally into your dream holiday planning, but it is an essential part of the process. After all, you can’t stop travel being unpredictable and unforeseen events from happening, but you can ensure you’re prepared and protected with the right cover in place.


The information contained within this communication does not constitute financial advice and is provided for general information purposes only. No warranty, whether express or implied is given in relation to such information. Vintage Health or any of its associated representatives shall not be liable for any technical, editorial, typographical or other errors or omissions within the content of this communication.