“If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel,” says Uriah Jansen, Hollard’s Oojah Travel Protection Managing Director. Travel insurance affords busy corporate travellers peace of mind in the knowledge that unexpected costs – particularly medical expenses – will be taken care of. “Generally, an employee travelling on behalf of his employer would expect that travel costs incurred on behalf of that company would be reimbursed. Some companies may retain this risk themselves, while others purchase annual travel insurance on behalf of all staff members who travel,” explains David Pratt, director of Tourism Risk Underwriting Managers (TRUM).
Travelling without medical insurance, especially in parts of Africa where facilities often fall far short of First World standards, can end up being a life-threatening decision. This sentiment is echoed by Jansen. “The only country, apart from South Africa, that we consider to have adequate medical facilities is Kenya.” “Repatriation within Africa via air ambulance following a medical emergency can cost between R400 000 and R600 000.”
There is general consensus among insurers in South Africa that the most important consideration is having adequate cover in the event of a medical emergency. This usually covers hospital fees, doctors’ fees and medication, while assistance companies offer allied 24-hour emergency call lines which provide support, such as hospital and doctor liaison and in dire cases, evacuation and repatriation.
The following genuine case studies give an indication of the potential expenses that an uninsured traveller might face:
- Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), January 2010: Two South African-insured travellers were involved in an explosion. The urgent medical attention they required was not available, so the pair were evacuated by air ambulance back to South Africa. Sadly, one of the victims died before the ambulance arrived, but the other made a full recovery in a Johannesburg hospital. He would not have survived his injuries had he not been evacuated. The total claim paid out in this instance was R800 000.
- Mauritius, December 2010: Client slips in a hotel shower and sustains spinal injuries. She is stabilised in a Mauritian hospital and repatriated as a stretcher case to South Africa under care of a qualified doctor. Her husband’s return to South Africa is paid for. A claim of R500 000.
- Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), December 2010: Cancellation of pre-booked trip after insured client’s son was attacked by a crocodile. The insured client was booked to travel on a cruise which had to be cancelled to deal with son’s medical emergency. A claim of R12 000 paid.
Excluding medical considerations, a trip may have to be cancelled or cut short for any number of reasons, so having adequate cancellation and curtailment cover will ensure that the business traveller is not left out of pocket.
Stories of lost, damaged or stolen baggage are legendary. Although a valuable laptop can be safely stowed in hand luggage, the loss of business suits, documents and other personal effects can cause great inconvenience and, contrary to popular belief, airlines do not always offer compensation.
The inclusion of cover for an alternate employee’s air ticket in the event of the original traveller’s trip being cancelled is also an option well worth considering. Regent Insurance offers an ‘alternative employee or resumption of duties’ cover, which covers a replacement economy ticket or resumption of the original trip.
Travel delays happen for many reasons, from political unrest such as that experienced recently in Egypt and Libya, to unseasonal flooding that resulted in a state of emergency being declared in Namibia in late March 2011. Having cover for such unexpected delays helps to offset the cost of accommodation and meals. Cover for specialist equipment, such as golf clubs, as well as personal liability – protection against lawsuits for damage or injury caused to persons – are other considerations. Personal accident protects against death or permanent disablement, while financial protection against an airline going bankrupt, or an airline employee strike, is also available.
What products are available?
Business travel insurance packages range from basic cover for medical expenses, personal accident, baggage loss and cancellations, to more customised product offerings. The travel manager for Regent Insurance, Louise Cockcroft, says the company offers a single business option and a variety of corporate options geared towards staff business travel within a company.
“On the whole, we offer business travellers higher levels of cover than leisure travellers,” says Cockcroft. “Regent’s medical expenses, inconvenience (baggage), personal accident and cancellation cover for business travellers are on a par with, or better than, cover offered to the leisure market.”
Oojah Travel Protection business travel insurance is linked to a global network of service providers and a 24-hour medical helpline. It covers medical expenses, personal liability, personal accident, cancellation and curtailment, repatriation and luggage.
Oojah offers three packages: one for frequent overseas business travel; one for companies insuring employees travelling on their behalf, purchased on a blanket basis; and one for companies wishing to cover contractual employees working in another country.
“Some of Oojah’s unique benefits under corporate cover include being able to abandon a trip and claim under the cancellation benefit, should the delay exceed 12 hours; car rental excess extension, and loss of income extension,” says Jansen.
Large banking institutions such as Standard Bank and Absa offer automatic basic insurance cover when international travel tickets are purchased using the client’s credit card. Standard Bank’s auto travel insurance covers emergency medical and related expenses and assistance, personal accident, baggage, money, credit card and traveller’s cheque fraud, baggage delay, travel delay, personal liability and hijack.
Absa’s product offerings include ‘automatic basic cover’, which makes provision for emergency medical expenses, personal accident cover and Absa Travel Assistant facilities and ‘optional top-up cover’ comprising three packages. The latter covers emergency medical and associated expenses, personal accident insurance, trip cancellation/curtailment, baggage loss/theft, legal expenses, hi-jack and wrongful detention and personal loss of money or passport.
Travel assistance companies such as Europ Assistance, who work in tandem with insurers, offer 24-hour help lines for accommodation and transport requirements; assistance for emergency evacuation to an appropriate medical facility, or evacuation to South Africa with a qualified medical crew.
Where to find travel insurance
- Conventionally, travel agents and tour operators work in tandem with insurance companies to include travel insurance in the cost of the trip.
- Low-cost airlines also offer travel insurance when purchasing a ticket.
- Travellers are at liberty to approach insurance companies directly for cover.
- Basic travel insurance is built into credit card bookings. Limits may be topped up if necessary.
- Brokers generally customise annual travel policies for companies to cover all business travel.
Pros and cons
On the positive side, insurance provides against loss of financial investment on a trip, but the downside is lengthy policy wording. Although insurers offer fairly comprehensive cover, they cannot protect against all eventualities, so it’s important for travellers to be aware of all exclusions in their particular policy. “When purchasing a travel policy, always ask about the pre-existing conditions. Most policies will have certain exclusions and the last thing you need to hear if you are hospitalised is that the insurance does not cover your illness due to a pre-existing condition,” warns TRUM’s David Pratt.
Tips for the business traveller
- Retain all original receipts of expenses incurred in the event of a travel delay. Claims will not be entertained without proof.
- Check on the country’s health and visa requirements and make sure you take the necessary prophylactic treatment, for example, to prevent malaria, which is prevalent in many parts of Africa.
- The onus is on the traveller to adhere to all the terms and conditions of their insurance policy to prevent possible repudiation of a claim.
- Avoid having management team members all travelling on the same flight.
- Keep a record of ID numbers, passport numbers and emergency contact numbers on your person and at home.
- Ensure that your passport has at least six months’ validity as many countries make this an entry prerequisite.
- Always keep your passport on your person when travelling outside of South Africa.
- One of the safest places to carry valuables is in a pouch or money belt worn under your clothing.