22 May

8.6 million holidaymakers don’t have travel insurance for their summer holiday

Nearly two-fifths (38%) of British holidaymakers who are going abroad this summer do not have travel insurance for their trip yet, according to ABTA – The Travel Association1.

The new research shows that 8.6 million British holidaymakers could be putting themselves at risk of paying substantial medical or repatriation costs if they fall ill or hurt themselves abroad, and may even risk a delay in treatment. 

Through a campaign with the Foreign Office, ABTA is encouraging holidaymakers to take out travel insurance as soon as they book their holiday, making sure that the insurance covers any medical conditions or activities they plan to do. ABTA is also advising travellers to keep a copy of the policy number and insurer’s contact details with them at all times while they are away. 

Just over one in five (21%) holidaymakers said they travelled without insurance in the last year. Of these people, over a third (37%) said they didn’t think they needed travel insurance and more than a quarter (28%) said it was a risk they were willing to take. 

However, the cost of medical treatment or repatriation can run into thousands of pounds, leaving people without insurance extremely vulnerable abroad. Of those who have had to pay an additional cost on holiday due to being uninsured or not having the right cover, more than a third (34%) have had to spend between £500 and £4,000.
ABTA’s research also finds that only a third of people who have bought travel insurance in the past 12 months kept their insurance policy details on them at all times when away; while around one in ten have left the information with family or friends back home or given it to a travel companion (13% and 9% respectively).

Having the travel insurance policy number and the international phone number for the travel insurance company to hand at all times, or with a friend or family member, will help those travelling access support as quickly as possible. 

ABTA is also reminding people to make sure they take out a travel insurance policy as soon as they book their holiday – this will help protect them should they need to cancel due to an unexpected event or illness. 

Mark Tanzer Chief Executive of ABTA – The Travel Association said: 

 “Millions of holidaymakers are heading off abroad each year either without the right travel insurance in place - or without any insurance at all. This leaves people at risk of having to pay significant medical costs or even facing delays in their treatment. Our message is clear - don’t take the risk, take out travel insurance and make sure it covers you for your circumstances and holiday plans.

“It’s also really important holidaymakers carry a copy of their insurance on them at all times, as well as leaving a copy with family or friends back home. That way they’ll be able to contact their insurer quickly and without hassle, should they need to.” 

Julia Longbottom, Director of Consular Services at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said:

“Most people enjoy trouble-free holidays overseas.  However, I am concerned by these new figures showing that many British holidaymakers continue to travel without insurance. The risks are very clear. You could find yourself paying out thousands of pounds in medical bills if you don’t have insurance. It’s important to know the FCO cannot help fund medical bills if you or a family member are taken ill or hospitalised when abroad. 

“Make sure you take out a travel insurance policy that meets your personal needs so you know you are covered should anything happen, and you can focus on having a relaxing holiday.” 

Recent examples of travel insurance incidents in the media:

  • November 2018 - A 30 year old nurse from Swansea passed away after suffering a heart attack while on holiday in Dubai. As she hadn’t taken out travel insurance her family was left to pay £30,000 in medical and repatriation fees.
  • March 2019 - A 50 year old woman from West Bromwich was put into an induced coma after suffering pneumonia and bronchiolitis while on holiday in Mexico. Her insurer said she did not disclose an inhaler prescription beforehand and so wouldn’t cover her £300,000 medical bill
  • December 2018 - A 61 year old woman from Scotland fell into a coma while on holiday. Insurers said she failed to disclose her medical details and as such would cost over £5,000 for her to be flown home
  • July 2018 - A family from Derby who became ill on holiday in Jamaica had to pay a £21,000 medical bill upfront due to the insurer not having the correct medical records 

Six things to think about when taking out travel insurance:

  1. Always tell your travel insurer about any pre-existing medical conditions – if you have an annual policy you must inform your insurer about any changes, even if they seem minor. Don’t be tempted to leave anything out, by not telling your insurer then your insurance may be void.
  2. Activities as seemingly safe as cycling may require a higher level of cover. Before you travel, always check with your insurer if you are covered for any activities you may participate in while on holiday.
  3. Travel insurance offered for free through bank accounts or cover offered through credit cards, often provides limited protection. Always check your policy to see if there are any restrictions.
  4. It’s important to have travel insurance as well as a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before you travel in Europe, as EHIC doesn’t cover everything. EHICs expire every five years so make sure your EHIC hasn’t expired before you travel.
  5. European cover is generally cheaper than worldwide cover; however remember that popular holiday destinations like Turkey, Dubai, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, where thousands of Brits travel each year, will not be covered by a European policy. 
  6. Take out your insurance policy as soon as you book your holiday, this should protect you from costs if you have to cancel the holiday because due to unforeseen circumstances, such as illness.  

For more tips and advice on choosing the right travel insurance policy visit abta.com/travelinsurance.

For further information, contact:
020 3117 0596 or press@abta.co.uk
Tom Sommerfelt, Senior Media Relations Executive, tsommerfelt@abta.co.uk or 020 3117 0531

Out of Hours:  Contact the Duty Press Officer on 020 3693 0183.
Web: www.abta.com
Twitter: @ABTAtravel

Notes to editors

1All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2045 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 1st - 2nd May 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

All calculations by ABTA – 38% of GB holidaymakers who have booked a holiday this summer (between May and September 2019) but not yet booked travel insurance equates to 17% of all GB adults. 17% of 50,644,094 GB adults 18+ (i.e. the total number of GB adults) which works out at 8,609,495 of GB adults 18+.

About ABTA

ABTA has been a trusted travel brand for over 65 years. Our purpose is to help our Members to grow their businesses successfully and sustainably, and to help their customers travel with confidence. 

The ABTA brand stands for support, protection and expertise. This means consumers have confidence in ABTA and a strong trust in ABTA Members. These qualities are core to us as they ensure that holidaymakers remain confident in the holiday products that they buy from our Members. 

We help our Members and their customers navigate through today's changing travel landscape by raising standards in the industry; offering schemes of financial protection; providing an independent complaints resolution service should something go wrong; giving guidance on issues from sustainability to health and safety and by presenting a united voice to government to ensure the industry and the public get a fair deal.

ABTA has around 1,200 Members, with a combined annual UK turnover of £38 billion. For more details about what we do, what being an ABTA Member means and how we help the British public travel with confidence visit www.abta.com.