Extreme heatwaves abroad prompt safety warnings for Australian travellers


Extreme heatwaves abroad prompt safety warnings for Australian travellers | Insurance Business Australia

Importance of comprehensive insurance highlighted

Extreme heatwaves abroad prompt safety warnings for Australian travellers


Roxanne Libatique

An increase in tourist deaths due to extreme heatwaves has raised safety concerns for Australians planning to travel overseas this Northern Hemisphere summer.

Comparetravelinsurance.com.au noted that nearly 1,000 individuals, including one Australian, died in Saudi Arabia during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, where temperatures exceeded 50°C. Additionally, this month saw the deaths of five tourists in Greece and two in Cyprus due to extreme heat. Michael Mosley, a well-known TV doctor, is also suspected to have died from heat exhaustion while hiking in the Greek islands.

Natalie Ball, managing director of Comparetravelinsurance.com.au, highlighted that the rise in heatwave-related deaths is a significant warning for those travelling to warm destinations.

“These tragic deaths underscore the lethal risks posed by heatwaves. Travellers should be mindful when planning vacations during the hottest months of the year. While a European summer is undeniably appealing, it’s crucial for travellers to understand the seriousness of heatstroke and its potential dangers,” she said.

Travel insurance coverage for heatwaves

Travel insurance typically covers extreme weather conditions, including heatwaves. From a medical standpoint, those who suffer from heatstroke would be covered by travel insurance.

“Medical fees you incur as a result of heat-related illness would be covered,” Ball said. “The majority of comprehensive travel insurance policies provide unlimited medical cover which would usually include emergency medical assistance and overseas hospital expenses.”

Ball urged insurance professionals to advise their clients with existing medical conditions to declare them to their insurers.

“If a medical condition flares up unexpectedly while you’re travelling, it may not be covered if you have not declared it to your travel insurer. It is important to consider your insurer’s definition of a pre-existing medical condition and pay any additional premium required to ensure you’re adequately covered,” she said.

Cancellation coverage due to heatwaves

If a pre-paid trip is cancelled due to extreme weather, travellers may be able to claim through their travel insurance.

“If a tour, daytrip, or event is cancelled due to extreme heat, you could be covered by a comprehensive policy. However, if you cancelled out of your own volition, this would likely not be covered,” Ball said.

Ball urged insurance professionals to remind their clients that their reluctance to travel due to elevated temperatures is not enough for a cancellation claim.

“Unless your destination becomes uninhabitable or the government issues a travel warning advising against travel, you won’t be eligible to claim for cancellation,” she said.

Travellers concerned about health risks should discuss changes with their travel providers.

“High temperatures can have serious effects on individuals with pre-existing health conditions. If you’re concerned, talk to your tour operators or travel agents to explore the possibility of adjusting your itinerary or changing your travel dates,” Ball said.

Illness-related trip cancellations

If struck by a heat-related illness, travellers may be covered to cancel the remainder of their trip if they cannot continue travelling.

“Any pre-booked accommodation or transportation you can no longer use due to illness would be covered by a comprehensive policy. Just be mindful that all cases are assessed on an individual basis. Remember to research your policy benefits as not all policies provide this type of cover,” Ball said.

For those yet to depart, sudden illness preventing travel may be covered.

“If you have a policy in place and can no longer travel due to a medical issue, you could be eligible to claim for cancellation. Again, this benefit is usually attached to more comprehensive policies so take the time to know what you’re covered for,” Ball said.

Tips for travelling during a heatwave

According to Smartraveller, heatstroke often results from sudden exposure to heat.

“Heatstroke can develop as a result of sudden and dramatic exposure to heat, which is often the case when tourists travel to hotter destinations,” Ball said. “The key is being prepared and taking the time to acclimatise.”

Ball advised that several days of heat exposure can lead to exhaustion, which can develop into more severe symptoms.

“Travelling to warmer destinations can be exhilarating but people often dismiss the risks. Taking care of your health and being prepared for weather extremes is essential,” she said.

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