Interviews

FOCUS – Travel insurance: Bajaj Allianz

Aditya Sharma explains the variety of covers available beyond the standard ones.
There are a variety of covers available beyond the standard ones, points out Aditya Sharma of Bajaj Allianz

INTERVIEW

The travel insurance market was close to Rs. 450 crore last year. Considering the fact that close to 1.5 millon people including foreigners travel from India every day, the travel insurance figures are comparatively very less, says Aditya Sharma, Head. Travel Insurance, Direct Marketing, Web Sales, Retail Health and Home Insurance, Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Co. Ltd in an interview to Suman Tarafdar. Excerpts. 

Has the need for travel insurance increased in India? If so, why?
Yes, the need as well as the awareness on travel insurance has increased in India. This can be attributed to the availability of travel insurance with travel agents & different online portals. Also, awareness about increasing cost of hospitalization abroad & guidance from friends/family members abroad is playing a major role in this.

How fast is the sector growing in India? How has the growth for Bajal Allianz been?
It was growing by a CAGR of more than 20% until 2013. Last year the growth was 20.6%.

What are the major trends for travel insurance? In terms of destinations, what people buy them for etc.?
It is mandatory to take an insurance cover if you are travelling to Schengen Countries & a few other countries as well. Today, people travelling to countries in Asia and other destinations for leisure have also started taking travel insurance, this can be accredited to an increased awareness amongst the travelers. Student insurance is a new segment which has come up very well in last 2-3 years. Universities overseas insist on having an insurance cover & they have already set their standard norms for this.

Bajaj-Allianz-logoWho is buying? Do we have an idea of what percentage of travelers buy insurance before travelling?
Typically corporates (frequent fliers and people travelling for meeting, incentives, conferences and exhibitions),students, travelers to Schengen countries & senior citizens travelling to meet their relatives buy an insurance cover. The travel insurance market was close to Rs. 450 crs last year. Considering the fact that close to 1.5 mn people including foreigners travel from India every day, the travel insurance figures are comparatively very less.

What are the various insurance options for the international traveler?
Covers are available from $ 50,000 to 500,000. For students it is up to $ 1,000,000. We have normal, elite and prime products with various distinctive features. These include loss of baggage, delay in baggage, loss of passport, missed connection, trip curtailment, dental treatment along with hospitalization and personal accident cover.

How different is it for travellers going to different nations?
We have bifurcated the travellers under two categories one who are travelling to USA & Canada and the second category being the ones travelling to any other country apart from US & Canada. The differentiating factor for the two categories is the price, the coverage is mostly is the same.

How does currency fluctuation affect insurance purchase?
It does not impact the purchase because the customer pays the premium in Indian rupee. However, the fluctuation in currency has an impact on the insurer when it comes to claim settlement, since they now have to pay more overseas. The US dollar rate as against the Indian Rupee has appreciated more than 20% last year but we have not increased travel insurance prices for our customers.

What are some of the less known aspects of travel insurance?
Apart from the standard covers available, our travel insurance policies also provide personal liability cover overseas, cover against home burglary while one is travelling, emergency cash advance, bounce hotel booking, domestic personal accident cover while travelling to and from the airport along with hospitalization abroad.

What fine print must the traveler know before getting insurance?
It is very important for the insured to be aware of the covers offered under the insurance policy. For instance few insurers offer limited covers & have various sub limits. It is a must for a traveler to understand the coverages before purchasing the policy. The traveler should also check whether the insurance provider has a good network of hospitals and other service providers abroad. Since most of the insurers do not have their own network abroad they largely depend on a third party service provider which might not be equipped to handle emergency situations.

Are people buying insurance for the domestic sectors as well?
Yes. But the coverage is limited to personal accident & few other riders. Since most of them are covered for any medical exigency under their normal health insurance policy.

Any other significant aspect to understanding the Indian travel insurance market and trends.
Currently travelers purchase the insurance policy suggested to them by their travel agent. However, the trend of purchasing products and services online and the availability of innovative products on the web, has given the customer more options to choose from in terms of price and coverage and this will change the buying behaviour amongst the travellers.

One needs to understand that a medical or any other emergency abroad not only costs much higher than in India but also causes a lot of inconvenience. Today, the awareness is increasing, and most of the countries, universities abroad and relatives staying abroad advise or insist on a travel insurance policy. The cost of insurance for $ 500000 is merely couple of thousand rupees which is a very small fraction of the total travel related expenditure or the covers available abroad. It is always prudent to travel abroad with a proper overseas insurance cover which will ensure complete protection during your stay in a foreign country, most importantly ensuring peace of mind.

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