From the President: Some notes on staying safe out there

The number of the vaccinated is increasing – and so is our pent-up desire for travel, especially international travel. It’s our profession and our passion, after all.

But wait: When should we go? And where should we go? And is it safe – for us and for those we will meet on the move?

Undoubtedly there are risks, depending on where you go.  Restrictions and rules applying to COVID vary with destinations, for starters, and COVID has not left us yet: thousands of people died today worldwide. The State Department website  is a good barometer of safe places, so that may be the first place to start.

If you haven’t already,  enroll in the free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)  and create an account at STEP.state.gov to get up-to-date Travel Advisories and Alerts as soon as they are issued. As I write this on May 30, for example, I see places on the Level 4 “Do Not Travel” list include Lichtenstein, Austria, France and Belgium – in fact, a good portion of Europe, based on reports of civic unrest a well as COVID.

If that doesn’t daunt you, experts are suggesting we hedge our bets and invest in travel health insurance – and check exactly what that insurance covers.

An April press release from Medjet, an air medical transport and travel security firm, summed up a study it conducted along with WORTH Media on habits of the well-to-do when it comes to business travel and health insurance and found overall knowledge lacking even in this presumably well-educated group. The study was originally conducted pre-COVID-19 in fall 2019, and completed early this year. It polled well-to-do professionals (household’s net worth of $1,000,000 and above) but certainly can apply to those of us who travel and cover travel.

When asked when they would feel ready to travel again, the poll found 17 percent are already traveling; 16 percent plan on travel within the next three months; and 54 percent plan on traveling between 4-12 months from now.

But while nearly two-thirds reported being concerned about their health while traveling, most were unaware of what most travel insurance actually covers – and more important, what it doesn’t.

Among those who had some kind of coverage, between 65 and 86 percent polled mistakenly believed their coverage would automatically get them all the way to a hospital at home – but many health, business or credit card travel benefits only pay for transport to the “nearest acceptable facility.”

“The greatest misconception among high-net-worth travelers is that, in the unforeseen event they were to end up hospitalized while out of town – be it in Peoria or Paraguay – they believe their basic travel coverage through a company plan, travel insurance or credit card would get them home,” said Medjet CEO Mike Hallman. “More often than not, that is not the case.”

Most relevant to us: Among the self-employed traveling for business frequently, the poll found 77 percent said they never bought travel insurance at all. Sound familiar? I never bought travel health insurance until I began taking grandchildren to places like Thailand and Bali and their mothers insisted. I’ve changed my mind about that.

Take some time to compare policies and benefits. Special COVID Coverage is included in many, according to a March article in Forbes which includes a handy comparison chart. And consider if you really really need to go just yet.

Bon voyage, buddies – but remember: Let’s be careful out there.

 

 

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