Interviews

FOCUS – Travel insurance: PolicyBazaar.com

INTERVIEW

PolicyBazaar-dahiya
Yashish Dahiya, CEO of PolicyBazaar.com says awareness about insurance is growing fast in India

With the number of Indians travelling abroad is set to touch 50 million by 2020, travel insurance in India is definitely on the rise, says Yashish Dahiya, CEO, PolicyBazaar.com. This online aggregation site, a comparatively new player in the Indian market, looks to capitalise on this new demographic to grow in the still nascent Indian market. In an email interview to Suman Tarafdar, he mentions the opportunities, highlights and pitfalls of the Indian market. 

Has the need for travel insurance increased in India? If so, why?
The increase in sales of travel insurance in India can be attributed to several reasons. Firstly, there number of travelers to foreign destinations from India has grown at around 10.2 per cent per year between 2008 and 2012. We now generate approximately 16 million trips annually. The reason is the higher disposable incomes among India’s middle class from metro and small cities which are creating opportunities for international travel. In fact, according to a report by United Nations World Travel Organization, the number of Indians travelling abroad is set to touch 50 million by the year 2020. Since the need for travel insurance in a foreign country is mandatory, the rise in sales of travel insurance over the past couple of years can be easily attributed to this.

Secondly consumers are becoming more and more aware of the benefits of having a travel insurance cover while on a trip. Also, the distribution channel for travel insurance is evolving. While earlier buying travel insurance was dependent of agents, now, thanks to online mediums and banking consumers don’t need to rely on any external sources to purchase covers. Online aggregation sites like PolicyBazaar have comprehensive details of all products available in the market and allow consumers to compare and purchase a policy that best suits their needs. Online platforms are also increasing the awareness about the types of insurance covers to opt for and how these safeguard your travels.

How fast is the sector growing in India? How has the growth for Policybazaar been?
Travel insurance sector has seen a tremendous growth over the past couple of years. The travel insurance business for PolicyBazaar.com has seen a growth rate of 70-75% per year over the past two years.

PolicyBazaarWhat are the major trends for travel insurance? In terms of destinations, what people buy them for etc?
As an insurance aggregator website we see some interesting trends for travel insurance products. For instance, about 20% of the bookings for travel insurance on the website are for travelers heading to destinations in Asia. This clearly shows that while Asia pacific destinations are a hot favorite, people are exploring America and Europe as holidaying options as well.

Finally, as per our data, almost 70% of our consumers are buying travel insurance with a sum insured of up to $100,000. This high sum assured highlights that people are now considering travel insurance as a necessity for a safe trip and not just a formality. Also, there to limited awareness on how frequent travelers can save on their travel insurance. We can say this because only 5% of our consumers purchase annual trip plans even though they are economical for frequent travelers.

Who is buying? Do we have an idea of what percentage of travellers buy insurance before travelling?
Talking about demography, over 50% of people purchasing travel insurance are under the age of 35. This is pretty standard as we know young people travel, but the interesting statistic is that close to 38% of our enquiries are for people over the age of 60. This data points out that an increasing number of people in their senior age are also looking to travel.

Over 70% of the customers are from Tier 1 cities while 15% are from Tier 2 cities

What are the various insurance options for the international travellers?
The insurance industry today offers an array of options for the international traveler. The best part is most of the insurance policies can be online after comparison. Bajaj Allianz, HDFC Ergo, Tata AIG, Iffco Tokio General Insurance, Reliance General Insurance, Future Generali are all great options to choose from.

How different is it for travellers going to different nations?
Travel insurance is pretty standardized irrespective of the country one is travelling to. The only difference arises in cases where nations have pre-mandated minimum insurance cover requirement as part of the visa formalities.

How does currency fluctuation affect insurance purchase?
Visa fluctuation does not affect travel insurance purchase. That is why it is always recommended to purchase travel insurance domestically before you fly out. It is cheaper and has added benefits.

What are some of the less known aspects of travel insurance?
Some companies have several extra features or add-ons in their products. These are coverage for your safety, security of your belongings while you travel and also for your triumphs abroad:

1. Hijack: Bajaj Allianz provides coverage of $50 per day to a maximum $300 in case of any occurrence of Hijack.
2. Golfer Hole-in-one: A hole in one is the term used in Golf where the ball directly hits from the tee into the cup with one shot. This rare event could mean that the golfer has to treat the golfers in celebration. This feature covers the cost of the same upto the specified limit.
3. Home Insurance: Some travel insurance products provide an additional coverage for your home. In your absence, the building and the material inside is covered upto a specified limit.
4. Trip Curtailment: If due to some reason, one has to cut short his/her trip, then this cover bears financial repercussions of the same. This may be in terms of hotel bookings, etc.
5. Automatic-extension of the policy: Some products allow you to extend your policy upto a period of 7 days from the policy expiry date.

What fine print must the traveller know before getting insurance?
If you are planning to go abroad, it is recommended to invest a small amount in travel insurance to reduce the risk on your travel. It is also important to be well-aware of the policy wordings and the exclusions. Do make sure that your travel insurance company is a registered one and has a good international presence. If possible, go through the claims settlement record once before you sign on the dotted line.

Are people buying insurance for the domestic sectors as well?
Domestic travel insurance is still in a nascent stage because people still are unaware of the financial benefits in case of an emergency during the trip. But this scenario is changing thanks to the ease with which policies can be purchased. Also, news about mass mishaps (like the Malaysian Airline) generally makes people more cautious to safeguard themselves with travel insurance while they travel.

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