It is thought that close to nine million British holidaymakers head overseas every year without travel insurance cover – close to two out of every five travellers who go abroad.
Low take up of travel insurance has long been associated with younger travellers – the foot-loose and fancy-free types who, perhaps still powered by a youthful sense of invincibility, are happy to take the risk.
But, according to new research from over-50s travel policy specialists Avanti Travel Insurance (you can find out more here), that may not paint the whole picture. In a survey of more than 1000 British holidaymakers, Avanti found that the numbers of older travellers prepared to head abroad without insurance were surprisingly high – and they also uncovered the likely reason why.
Asked if they would bother buying travel insurance for a day trip over the English Channel to France, 55% of the survey’s respondents said yes. As might be predicted, this fell to just 45% of 18 to 20-year olds. But a much more surprising finding was that just 42% of women aged over 65 said they would buy a policy for a day trip – the lowest figure across all age groups.
Elsewhere in the study, participants were asked what they thought the biggest concerns were for people aged 65 and over when it came to travel. There was one very unanimous winner – across all age groups, 75% of respondents said the cost of travel insurance, rising to 85% amongst the over-65s themselves.
Out of balance?
The issue of travel insurance costs and age of the customer is well documented. Insurance companies get an exemption from age discrimination laws on the grounds that, as people get older, they are more likely to fall ill or suffer accidents while they travel. Because insurers therefore have to pay out more, they are allowed to charge more for policies.
But figures show that while the average cost of a medical claim against travel insurance does increase steadily after the age of 50, the frequency of claims is much less consistent – things seem to flatten out and even fall after the age of 65, perhaps because the numbers of people travelling start to fall after that age.
Yet the cost of travel insurance continues to rise, and many times faster than the average cost of a claim rises. By the time someone is 80, they can expect to pay up to 17 times more for a medical travel cover than they did when they were 50 – despite the difference in the average claim being only roughly double. Not only that, but they are excluded from more and more policies by age caps, giving them less opportunity to find a good deal.
In that context, it therefore becomes understandable why a surprisingly large proportion of people aged over 65 are prepared to travel without insurance. But the difficulty then is that they are taking on the risk of needing medical treatment abroad on themselves. With most countries excluding foreign visitors from social health schemes, meaning they have to pay private prices for any care they receive, this can be an even more damaging option than buying an expensive policy.
Brad May, Chief Marketing Officer at Avanti Travel Insurance, said: “No matter how long or how far you’re travelling, it’s important to make sure that you and your plans are covered with travel insurance. Accidents can happen to anyone, at any time, and without adequate cover people could be leaving themselves unprotected.”