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Archive for September, 2009

NZ adventure travel under microscope

Monday, September 28th, 2009

With 10 young thrillseekers dying in the past 18 months, it is not surprising that the New Zealand Prime Minister has promised an immediate review into the safety standards in that country’s adventure travel industry.  With comments such as ‘out of control thrill firms’ and ‘cowboy companies are a growing problem’, this is obviously a huge concern and regulations need to be tightened and cowboy outfits closed down.

Thousands of British travellers, many of them gap year backpackers, flock to New Zealand’s adrenaline sport centres every year, so with the southern hemisphere summer season fast approaching, tourists are being urged to look for the NZ Qualmark logo, which indicates that a company is professional and trustworthy.  If an operator has no qualification, then walk away is the best advice.

Also, checking the small print in your travel insurance policy to see that you are covered for what you intend to do whilst on holiday is essential before you go. It is very important to choose a travel insurance provider who tries to give as much information to their customers on what activities are, or are not, covered and what may be done if the right procedures are in place and the correct safety precautions taken. Make sure you understand exactly when and where cover is given.

For diving, check the maximum depth covered and for winter sports check whether off-piste is covered. This also goes for 3rd party liability, for example, if there is any chance you could collide with someone else or damage someone else’s property or equipment while enjoying your sporting activity. Finally, if you find yourself without cover, ask the organisers of the activity to provide cover or consider the purchase of top-up cover if you are involved in hazardous activities and have only basic travel insurance.

This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Look out for pickpockets!

Friday, September 25th, 2009

It’s not an award that any city wants to achieve but Barcelona has been ranked the pickpocket capital of the world. This is according to the review website TripAdvisor.com with the renowned area, La Rambla, being a particular pickpocket hotspot. Other cities which feature high on the pickpocket list include Rome, Prague, Madrid, Florence, Athens and Amsterdam in Europe and Buenos Aires and Hanoi further afield.

Regrettably the high incidence of theft abroad goes largely unreported. But it is a growing problem and affects thousands of holidaymakers abroad each year. Generally when we go abroad, our guard is down and this is what the professional gangs and pickpockets look out for. Whilst baggage that is lost, whilst under the control of the airline, may be attributed to theft, generally this will be marked down as lost in transit and a claim against the carrier and travel insurance will be fairly straight forward providing that a passenger irregularity report is obtained from the airline.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg for the unwary traveller. Many thefts occur as soon as you have picked up your bags and ventured into the arrivals hall. Picking up a hire car is a very common place to be targeted where bags are taken whilst distracted at the counter. Travelling on public transport is another popular target area where jostling can appear harmless, only to find that a purse or wallet has been taken in the confusion. Placing bags under your chair in a restaurant is an open invitation to it being lifted.

If you are unfortunate to have any items stolen on holiday, do make a list of the items stolen and cancel your credit cards and travellers cheques immediately. Go to the local police station as soon as possible and insist on a police report. This is an absolute must if you intend to claim on your travel insurance and most policies insist that this should be done within 24 hours of the incident. If you don’t, then you will find your insurer less inclined to pay out.

If you lose your passport, then contact the nearest British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate who will be able to issue you with an emergency replacement passport to get you home.

This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Travel claim fraud still a problem

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Why do people do it? That is, attempting to claim on their travel insurance for non-existant incidents.  This has been highlighted by the case this year of the two British women, now languishing in Rio, convicted involving potential travel claim fraud and a recent insurance industry report citing that travellers to Spain and India are most likely to make a fraudulent claim on their travel insurance. Claims handling companies have become more fraud aware and are now primed to spot “telltale signs” of false claims, sometimes using voice monitoring equipment when dealing with individual claimants, to limit the widespread travel claim abuse.

But insurance fraud is on the rise with many customers pretending that possessions, such as expensive cameras and iPods, have been stolen overseas, while others are upping the value of what has been stolen in the case of genuine theft. As the losses are abroad and police overseas are often not interested in investigating, people can claim possessions have gone missing. Some travellers who realise that they cannot afford holidays booked earlier in the year are believed to be cancelling trips, after feigning illness and tricking doctors into issuing certificates stating that they are unwell. Most travel insurance policies offer cancellation refunds when a traveller falls ill before a trip.

Sadly, if someone commits fraud, it’s honest customers who end up paying in the form of higher premiums. Despite the high profile case in Rio, there are few prosecutions as the facts of cases are often difficult to prove. However the sting in the tail for those that do try, then if the claim is rejected, that goes on their credit rating and it will make loans and insurance more expensive in the future.

This article is brought you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Budget airline SkyEurope folds

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

Another budget airline, this time SkyEurope Airlines, has ceased flying leaving hundreds of air passengers stranded at home and abroad. SkyEurope, a Slovakian airline flew out of Luton and Manchester. Manchester airport flies just under a 1,000 passengers a week on SkyEurope, while up to 4,500 use the airline from Luton. Both Ryanair and EasyJet said that they were offering special fares to bring stranded passengers home.

SkyEurope is the latest victim of the financial crisis which has engulfed the aviation industry in the last two years and has seen at least two dozen carriers collapse, including Silverjet, Zoom, EOS, Sterling, Maxjet, and XL Airways. Those who booked directly with the airline are unlikely to get their money back. This is because they are not covered by the ATOL scheme which provides protection for those who have bought flights as part of a package holiday. Travel industry experts said those people who had booked flights through travel agents might receive a refund but those travellers, who made bookings through the company’s website, will not qualify.

The only hope for passengers who bought flights directly from SkyEurope is to seek cash back from their credit card company, assuming they used a credit card for the transaction, but anyone who paid using a debit card, cash or a cheque can only hope that their holiday travel insurance provides protection against the collapse of an airline failing. Not all travel insurance policies will offer this but some insurers offer Passenger Protection Insurance sold separately or part of a travel insurance policy but always check the small print if this is offered because these are quite often restrictive in their cover.

This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Liquidation fears for coming ski season

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

Fresh back from summer holidays, some of us may now have thoughts towards the coming ski season.  But you would be wise to look at who you are booking with and whether you are properly protected should a company fail in the coming months. Advance bookings for skiing and snowboarding holidays are at their lowest level for 10 years, provoking concern that a number of chalet firms may not survive. With the ski operator, Descent, an established luxury chalet company for more than a decade, folding at the end of August with debts of £1.5 million and a small number of other companies, including Ski All America and Indigo Lodges, preceding Descent into liquidation, there are growing fears that more may follow.

This emphasizes the importance of choosing a company that has recognised bonding in place so that you will get a full refund should the worst happen. Some insurers offer Passenger Protection Insurance sold separately or part of a travel insurance policy but always check the small print if this is offered because these are quite often restrictive in their cover. You can reduce the risk further by organising your travel through tour operators and agents covered by ATOL or who hold bonding through an approved body, such as ABTA or AITO.  

What is ATOL? This stands for Air Travel Organiser’s licensing and is a protection scheme for flights and air holidays, managed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and protects the customer from losing money or being stranded abroad when a tour operator goes bust. All licensed firms have to lodge bonds with the CAA so that, if they go out of business, the CAA can give refunds to people who can’t travel and arrange for people abroad to finish their holidays and fly home.

And ABTA? Members of the Association of British Travel Agents are required to provide financial protection for their customers which means that you can book your holiday knowing that if an ABTA member fails financially while you are on holiday, you can continue your holiday as planned. If your holiday has not started, then you will receive a full refund or be given help to make alternative arrangements for the trip to proceed.

Likewise AITO, or Association of Independent Tour Operators to give it its full title, require their members to protect their customer’s money in the event of an AITO member going into liquidation.

This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.