The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic left the travel and tourism industry on the brink of collapse as countries went into lockdown, airlines cancelled flights, travel agencies rescheduled tours, and businesses shut down.
Destination Canada’s April 2020 report revealed that economic recession had already started by early March. Its economic assumptions, based on Oxford Economics’ April 06 report, included a sharp GDP contraction in the second and third quarters of 2020 if Canada cannot contain the virus. The unemployment rate might also reach 17.8% in the third quarter of the year.
With the Canadian travel and tourism sector still struggling to deal with the impacts of COVID-19, several travel insurance providers have temporarily paused the sale of new insurance policies and refused to pay out to customers caught by the pandemic.
The top 10 travel insurers in Canada, based on Yore Oyster’s review, have released their statements about policy changes and initiatives to address COVID-19. These are outlined below.
TuGo provides coverage for medical emergencies related to COVID-19, provided that the policyholder left their home province before March 13, 2020 and travelled to a destination not included in the Canadian government’s “non-essential travel” advisory announced before March 13.
The insurer warned that it cannot repatriate customers who are still staying overseas due to closed borders and closed Canadian health facilities. The coverage of policies with exclusions related to any government advisory might also be limited or excluded in the future.
Policyholders who left for their trip before March 13 can extend their policy and have coverage for expenses related to COVID-19. Meanwhile, policyholders who departed on or after March 13 can extend their policy but cannot be covered for any medical coronavirus-related expenses anymore.
“If your policy is expiring and has not lapsed, we will allow you to purchase a one-time 10-day extension to your travel medical coverage. It may be adjusted for as long as it would reasonably take you to return to Canada. We will provide coverage for travellers who cannot return home and are quarantined,” TuGo said.
TuGo also decided to provide emergency medical coverage for coronavirus-related expenses for essential service providers up to the policy limit for existing policies and annual policy renewals.
- World Nomads
World Nomads policyholders could be eligible for benefits under the emergency medical section of their policy if they contracted COVID-19 while travelling overseas. They could also be eligible for benefits under the trip cancellation or trip interruption sections of their policy if they cannot continue their trip due to government-issued travel advisories, medical conditions, or even death.
“Unexpected sickness – including COVID-19 – is a covered reason for trip cancellation, provided that you had purchased the policy before you were diagnosed and a physician recommends that you stop your travel plans for your health,” World Nomads said.
“You may also qualify for coverage if your travel companion, immediate family member, or business partner unexpectedly develops a medical condition such as COVID-19.”
RSA’s trip cancellation and trip interruption coverage does not apply to any trip booked on or after March 13 when the government announced a travel advisory limiting all non-essential travel overseas.
Customers who left for a trip overseas, whose policy includes trip cancellation and trip interruption coverage, will be covered provided that they booked their trip before the government announced a travel advisory against their destination. The trip interruption coverage is limited to 10 days from the date of the travel advisory to the period when the policyholder can safely evacuate the country.
RSA’s Out of Country Medical Insurance is not available for policyholders who booked their trip to a location under a relevant travel advisory. If the travel advisory was issued after the customer’s departure, medical coverage would be limited to 10 days from the date of the advisory to a period necessary for the policyholder to leave the location.
Tour+Med temporarily suspended the sale of trip cancellation and interruption insurance for a cruise or trip planned in the next few months. Moreover, it will not pay out to customers who became sick or experienced losses caused by exposure to a situation related to the government’s travel advisory.
Tour+Med advised customers with travel plans booked in the coming months to “make the most appropriate decisions depending on the trip and the impacts of this evolving situation.”
“We have no information as to how long the advisory will be in place. However, take note that the advisory must be in place 72 hours prior to your scheduled departure date for your claim to be submitted to the Compensation Fund for Customers of Travel Agents (CFCTA), if applicable,” Tour+Med said.
The BCAA will not provide any coronavirus-related coverage for policies purchased on or after March 05, 2020 as it already considered COVID-19 as a “known event” as that time.
The BCAA emergency travel medical insurance will provide coverage for medical conditions caused by COVID-19 unless the policyholder’s destination has a level 3 or 4 travel advisory in place before departure.
“The current official global travel advisory means medical coverage for COVID-19 is not available (including cruise ship travel) for trips that depart on or after March 13, 2020,” the BCAA said.
Allianz Global Assistance considered COVID-19 as a known event on March 11. Therefore, it will not pay out for any trip interruption or trip cancellation claims related to COVID-19 for policies purchased on or after the provided date.
Customers who purchased their policy before March 11 are eligible to file a claim for trip interruption if Global Affairs Canada issued a COVID-19 travel advisory against non-essential travel or all travel before their departure date.
Policyholders with emergency medical benefits who contracted COVID-19 during their trip would not be eligible for emergency medical treatment if a travel advisory against non-essential travel or all travel was in place on their departure date.
“On March 13, 2020, Global Affairs Canada issued a global travel advisory against non-essential international travel due to COVID-19. If a Global Affairs Canada travel advisory is no longer in place for a policyholder’s specific destination on their date of departure, the policyholder will be eligible for medical treatment related to COVID-19 while on their trip,” Allianz said.
- American Express Travel Insurance
American Express decided to temporarily cease new travel policy sales in response to the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis and the government’s travel advisory.
It will also not cover for fear of travel or trip cancellations for any reason. Therefore, policyholders must check their insurance certificate or a sample of the document on the American Express website for a list of valid reasons.
“There is updated information regarding COVID-19 and insurance coverage you may have on your card. If you are calling to rebook or cancel your travel plans, please contact your airline or travel provider,” American Express said.
Blue Cross considered COVID-19 as a “known event” on March 12, 2020. Therefore, it will not pay out to customers who contracted the virus or experienced losses related to the virus if they departed on or after March 13, 2020.
“Travel insurance is intended to cover losses arising from sudden and unforeseeable circumstances. Any claims resulting from events known to a policyholder at the time of purchasing the trip are not covered,” Blue Cross said.
The insurer also reminded its customers that it would not provide extensions of coverage until further notice due to the pandemic and in alignment with its policy terms and conditions.
- Travel Guard
Travel Guard will not provide coronavirus-related coverage for policies purchased on or after March 11, 2020 as the World Health Organisation (WHO) had already declared COVID-19 a pandemic at that time.
“Any losses for trip cancellation, trip interruption, or trip delay caused by or resulting from quarantine due to COVID-19 are not considered ‘unforeseen’ and will not be covered under the terms and conditions of this insurance policy,” Travel Guard said.
However, the situation does not affect any medical benefits available under Travel Guard insurance policies.
“If you contracted COVID-19 before departure, you would be covered for trip cancellation if you have a confirmed and documented diagnosis or you are medically unable to travel at the time of departure due to COVID-19,” Travel Guard said.
“If you contracted COVID-19 while on a covered trip, you would be covered for Medical Expense and Trip Interruption/Curtailment benefits if you have a confirmed and documented diagnosis.”
GMS decided to suspend the sales of its TravelStar Emergency Medical and Trip Cancellation insurance plans following the travel advisory on March 13 as it cannot provide coverage for claims incurred outside Canada.
It will provide coverage as long as the customer took out the policy before the government’s travel advisory, and it will cover for coronavirus-related medical expenses if the customer arrived at their destination before the announcement.
“For multi-trip plans, you have coverage if there was no travel advisory in place before your purchase date or booking date,” GMS said.
Policyholders can change the dates of their coverage, provided that they have not yet departed and the new departure date is within 18 months of the date of policy purchase. They will also be eligible for a premium refund if their travel provider cancelled the trip and gave a full refund with all penalties waived or rescheduled the travel dates and provided a full refund with all penalties waived.
GMS does not offer extensions for its emergency medical or top-up coverage due to the global pandemic advisory.