To boost traveler confidence, a growing number of hotels and destinations have begun offering free medical insurance to guests.
Most recently, Sandals announced all guests staying at one of their properties in the Caribbean will receive free medical coverage, including COVID-19 related expenses, for bookings now through Dec. 31, 2020.
The all-inclusive resort operator became one of several suppliers to offer free COVID19 coverage. Palladium Hotel Group also has free medical insurance available for any guest across all its properties in Mexico, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic. The policy will protect guests from the moment they check-in until check-out, with expenses for any illness including COVID-19 up to €3,000.
Airlines, too, has utilized complimentary coverage to encourage weary travelers to take the leap. WestJet covers medical and quarantine expenses for bookings to Mexico, the Caribbean and some European destinations made through Aug. 21, 2021. Air Canada, meanwhile, covers emergency quarantine and medical expenses for Canadian residents related to COVID-19, and will be available for new bookings made to Mexico and Caribbean.
The Dominican Republic launched a “Plan for the Responsible Recovery of Tourism.” the government’s offer of free emergency medical coverage for every tourist who vacations in the Dominican Republic through December 31, 2020. Visitors under the age of 85 staying at a resort in the Dominican Republic will have their expenses covered in case of a medical emergency during their stay, whether COVID-19 related or not, excluding pre-existing conditions and negligent acts.
But will these free insurance plans make a difference for travel advisors selling and booking vacations?
Advisors agreed that selling insurance is essential right now, with the initial weeks of the pandemic highlighting its importance. But, while these can make for supplemental coverage, they shouldn’t replace the real thing.
“I am always going to push travel insurance so they get the other benefits anyway,” said Linda de Sosa, owner of Bucketlist Travel Consulting, who added the clients are more worried about getting stuck in a destination rather than getting sick there.
Christina Hawkins, travel associate with AAA Carolinas, also said she always offer travel insurance for her clients and highly recommends it. “This extra medical coverage from the resorts is a nice touch and should drive business in. I currently have clients in Cabo and Jamaica and they are all having great experiences with the new protocols in place.”
What’s likely to do more for boosting travel is airports and airlines planning coronavirus testing programs for passengers.
De Sosa said another concern among her clients is meeting destination requirements. Each Caribbean country, for example, requires incoming visitors to take a PCR test at a different interval prior to travel.
“For example, I’m going to Kenya next week,” she explained. “I have to have a negative COVID-19 test from within 96 hours. So I have an appointment two days before the trip. Trying to coordinate that and then the logistics once I get there. I arrive in the evening after curfew so I have to get an airport hotel and my son in law will pick me up the next morning.”
While advisors will help their clients navigate those tricky timing situations, it still can be a hassle that some don’t want to deal with; however, Hawkins said it’s been “a smooth process so far.”
Miami International Airport has now joined Tampa in offering tests for all passengers, while American Airlines will begin offering pre-flight COVID-19 testing starting with service to Jamaica and the Bahamas, allowing passengers to bypass any mandatory quarantine. The same goes for Hawaiian Airlines and United, offering similar programs for those flying into Hawaii.
As we continue to head toward the holiday season, expect to see more and more suppliers introduce programs to ease the burden for travelers as they bid for business and target consumer confidence.