More than half of those in the survey (56 percent) said health concerns would influence their destination planning. “To illustrate, travelers concerned about the H1N1 virus outbreak in Mexico last spring cancelled vacation plans en masse, greatly affecting tourism to that country,” says UStiA President Mike Ambrose. “Survey respondents ranked emergency assistance in situations such as the Swine Flu and others as important to them. Eighty percent of people said access to 24-hour emergency assistance was important to very important, especially women and those between the ages of 45-64. The survey also revealed that women were more likely than men to be concerned about health and the entire spectrum of security and safety issues.
“In health and other crises, whether it be an H1N1 outbreak or unexpected events that may affect someone’s safety and security, travel insurance and assistance companies help travelers in a variety of ways," Ambrose continued. "These services can include accessing local medical treatment, helping travelers locate transportation should they need to return home because of a quarantine situation or other emergency circumstance, and reimbursing for cancelled vacations because of illness."
Nearly half of those surveyed (49 percent) indicated they would purchase travel insurance; only 18 percent said they probably would not.
“Many people may not fully realize the many benefits of travel insurance," Ambrose said. "Travel assistance is an important part of most comprehensive travel insurance policies, providing around-the-clock services in emergency and other situations. In addition to medical issues, a 24/7 assistance hotline offers help with other problems, from legal issues, to getting prescriptions refilled, finding lost luggage, accessing translation services or rerouting travel itineraries away from affected destinations.
“Comprehensive travel insurance also provides people with the peace of mind of knowing they have financial coverage in case their vacation is cancelled or interrupted because of illness or other reasons such as natural disasters," Ambrose continued. "And, should they become ill while traveling, travel insurance covers necessary medical payments and provides medical evacuation if needed.”
UStiA initiated the survey to assess travel concerns of Americans who are considering going abroad this year. The survey, conducted in May 2009 by Synovate eNation on behalf of UStiA, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.
UStiA membership is estimated to represent more than 90 percent of the travel insurance market in the U.S. The UStiA is a non-profit association of insurance carriers and allied businesses involved in the development, administration and marketing of travel insurance and assistance.