Insurance cover needs marketing

The special online insurance coverage scheme, known as the Thailand Travel Shield, was initiated by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to help visitors whose own insurance policy might be void because of the ongoing martial law. However, the policy has so far attracted only a small number of members, about 1,000, principally from Italy, Australia and Canada.

The scheme offers travel insurance of up to 2 million baht for up to 60 days on any one trip to Thailand for a premium which varies from 650 baht to 12,000 baht, depending on the length of the proposed stay and the precise benefits provided. The insurance must be applied for online prior to arrival in Thailand. Nobody over 70 is permitted to join the plan and foreign residents in Thailand are also excluded.

Thailand Travel Shield is offered by four public-listed Thai insurance companies: Muang Thai Insurance, Chao Phaya Insurance, Siam City Insurance and Krungthai Panich Insurance. There are a broad range of benefits for unforeseen events including medical care for accidents, trip cancellation, loss of personal belongings and emergency hotel accommodation. Pre-existing medical conditions are not covered.

Marketing the scheme has been left to TAT and the four insurance companies, but few people seem to be aware of its existence. Pattaya Today contacted several Bangkok-based foreign embassies, but only the Australian mission seemed to have any knowledge. The British and American embassies referred us to their websites, but there is actually no mention there of the Thailand Travel Shield.

The scheme is actually a good one and even includes pre-trip information on inoculations, weather, exchange rates and general medical information. However, tourists have long visited Thailand without any form of travel insurance whatsoever, presuming that no disaster would befall them. This is particularly true of new-generation visitors from India and China who may not have any form of cover in their own country, let alone when they are travelling abroad.

According to a British Foreign Office report two years ago, about one half of British tourists travelling abroad fail to carry any insurance at all. Some travel companies insist on clients taking out some form of cover, but there is no requirement in Thailand for visitors to have insurance when entering the country. A British travel agent in Pattaya said, “Many travelers just don’t think of accidents or the tremendously high cost of top-class hospitalization in Thailand. They tend to think accidents are what happen to other people.”

Several Thai hospitals have also confirmed that there have been hardly any claims under the Thailand Travel Shield scheme. Pattaya Today was able to trace only two such cases in the entire country, both in southern Thailand. A spokesperson for TAT said that there would be a new marketing campaign beginning in the new year. However, she pointed out that some travel insurance policies, especially in Europe, were not voided by the imposition of martial law. This could be one reason why the take-up has been low, she said.

The fine print of Thailand Travel Shield states that there are other exclusions apart from old age and pre-existing medical conditions. These include accidents occurring while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, hazardous or extreme sports including motorbike riding and getting involved in public brawls. Full details are on the website www.tourismthailand.org/ThailandTravelShield.

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