Press team

ABTA warns that holidaymakers are travelling without the necessary insurance

As many as two in five people (38%) - 9.9 million Brits - who travelled abroad in the past 12 months have holidayed without the right travel insurance, took part in activities which may not have been covered, or didn’t have any insurance at all, according to ABTA – The Travel Association1

As the Bank Holiday signals the start of the holiday season, new research from ABTA shows that many British holidaymakers jetting off this year could be putting themselves at risk by travelling without the necessary travel insurance.

Breaking down the figures, more than one in five (22%) people reported travelling on some holidays completely uninsured in the past 12 months. One in four (27%) British holidaymakers have risked invalidating their insurance by not telling their insurance companies about pre-existing medical conditions or by taking part in activities without checking they were covered under the policy.  An insurer can reject a claim in either of these situations.

Ahead of the summer holidays, ABTA is urging holidaymakers to take out travel insurance which covers their circumstances and the activities they are planning to do. This will avoid potentially costly medical bills should something go wrong.

The most common reason for not buying travel insurance was that people felt it wasn’t needed – e.g. that the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) would provide sufficient cover. While it is important to have an EHIC card when travelling in Europe, the EHIC only provides access to state medical care and does not include repatriation to the UK if you are seriously ill. This can be extremely costly should you require an air ambulance, for example.

For almost one third of people who didn’t buy travel insurance (29%) cost was a barrier and just over one in seven people (15%) said that they received insurance through their bank account. ABTA is encouraging people who have travel insurance with their bank to check that it covers their requirements as there may be restrictions around age, health, destination and activities.

Joyce Kettle, 74, a great grandmother from Blyth, Northumberland was airlifted to hospital near Cancun having suffered from breathing difficulties on a cruise off the Mexican coast. She underwent an emergency heart operation resulting in a hospital bill of over £50,000. Joyce thought she had holiday insurance through her bank but the policy only covered her for trips in Europe. As a result, her family launched a Go Fund Me appeal to help pay for Joyce’s medical costs and bring her safely home: gofundme.com/getjoycehome

While the average cost of a travel insurance claim is £1,2962, the cost of medical treatment or repatriation can run into thousands of pounds, leaving people extremely vulnerable abroad. Without sufficient cover, many families are having to raise money for treatment or repatriation, with some resorting to crowdfunding.

Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive, said:

“Every year we see cases of people falling into difficulty due to travelling without sufficient travel insurance. While many people are still choosing not to take out travel insurance at all, others are travelling unaware that their insurance policy is not protecting them as they expect.

“While not declaring existing medical conditions or taking part in activities that aren’t covered are easy mistakes to make, they can be very costly, leaving holidaymakers and their families with expensive medical bills which run into thousands of pounds. I would urge all holidaymakers to make sure they take out travel insurance and check that it covers their circumstances and holiday plans.”

Susan Crown from the Travel Aware team at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: 

“People are risking thousands of pounds in medical bills by travelling without an insurance policy that covers them for everything they want to do abroad. It’s important to know that the FCO cannot pay medical bills if you are hospitalised abroad nor can we fly you home. Make sure to take out an appropriate insurance policy and know what it covers. It may feel like an added expense but the costs of not being insured could be many thousands of pounds. We’d like to see all British holidaymakers enjoying their holiday safe in the knowledge that they are covered if anything goes wrong”.

Five things you may not already know about travel insurance:

  1. It’s important to have both an EHIC and travel insurance before you travel in Europe. EHICs expire every five years so make sure your EHIC hasn’t expired before you travel.
  2. Always tell your travel insurer about any pre-existing condition– if you have an annual policy you must inform your insurer about any changes, even if they seem minor. Don’t be tempted to leave anything out, by not telling your insurer then your insurance may be void.
  3. Activities as seemingly safe as cycling may require a higher level of cover. Before you travel, always check with your insurer if you are covered for any activities you may participate in while on holiday.
  4. Travel insurance offered for free through bank accounts or cover offered through credit cards, often provides limited protection. Always check your policy to see if there are any restrictions.
  5. European cover is generally cheaper than worldwide cover; however remember that popular holiday destinations like Turkey, Dubai, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, where thousands of Brits travel each year, will not be covered by a European policy.

For more tips on choosing the right travel insurance policy visit abta.com/travelinsurance

About ABTA

ABTA has been a trusted travel brand for over 65 years. Our purpose is to help our Members to grow their businesses successfully and sustainably, and to help their customers travel with confidence.

The ABTA brand stands for support, protection and expertise. This means consumers have confidence in ABTA and a strong trust in ABTA Members. These qualities are core to us as they ensure that holidaymakers remain confident in the holiday products that they buy from our Members.

We help our Members and their customers navigate through today's changing travel landscape by raising standards in the industry; offering schemes of financial protection; providing an independent complaints resolution service should something go wrong; giving guidance on issues from sustainability to health and safety and by presenting a united voice to government to ensure the industry and the public get a fair deal.

ABTA currently has around 1,200 Members, with a combined annual UK turnover of £33.07 billion. For more details about what we do, what being an ABTA Member or Partner means, and how we help the British public travel with confidence visit www.abta.com.