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Nearly Half of Canadians Planning to Leave the Country This Year Will Not Buy Travel Insurance: Survey

First installment of new monthly survey from RATESDOTCA and BNN Bloomberg shows 52% of Canadians planning to travel outside of the country this year will purchase travel insurance.

June 17, 2021
7 mins
A couple almost loses their ice cream as they walk down the street

COVID-19 moved the needle on Canadians’ awareness of the need for travel insurance when leaving the country, but not by much.

According to the results of a Leger survey, conducted in May 2021 on behalf of RATESDOTCA and BNN Bloomberg, barely half (52%) of Canadians planning to leave the country this year will do so with travel insurance. That figure is only marginally higher than in February 2020, when a previous Leger survey found 40% of Canadians travelled abroad within the previous three years and purchased insurance coverage for their trip.

Canadians still wary of paying for travel insurance (even post-COVID)

Comparing the results of those similar (albeit not directly related) surveys suggests only a small minority of Canadians who travelled internationally without insurance prior to the pandemic will reconsider in the post-COVID world. In the May 2021 survey, roughly one in seven (14%) Canadians planning trips abroad in 2021 said they were not buying a new insurance policy because they already had specific travel coverage.

However, more than one in four Canadians with near-term international travel plans said they either don’t need travel insurance (7%) or they believe they already have enough coverage via other sources (19%) such as a credit card.

When including Canadians with near-term domestic travel plans, the latest survey found only 42% of everyone booking a post-pandemic trip will be purchasing travel insurance. That is because just 25% of respondents with plans to travel within Canada this year will be purchasing travel insurance.

These results highlight two key facts that Canadians should know before finalizing their 2021 vacation plans 1) Travel insurance is more about addressing minor injuries and unexpected events like a broken arm than it is about responding to a once-in-a-century pandemic and 2) Provincial health care systems are not as willing to pay medical bills for non-residents as you might believe.

Getting injured abroad is more expensive than you think

Nobody takes a vacation expecting to require medical care, but nobody wants to be stuck with a massive bill because of a minor accident either. Even if COVID never existed, the odds of tripping over a shell on the beach, falling off your bicycle or just having a moment of clumsiness would still be exactly the same (e.g. not zero).

According to travel insurance data from 2019, even a non-emergency issue such as breaking your arm while on vacation in Florida can cost well over US$30,000. Below are a few examples of actual claims (specifically for broken arms to provide as close to an apples-to-apples comparison as possible) paid out by RATESDOTCA travel insurance partners.

Destination Travel Insurance Claim Cost ($USD)
Dominican Republic $10,000
Illinois, USA $25,000
Mexico $33,000
Florida, USA $36,000

Now, compare those numbers to the cost of travel insurance. Below is a comparison of quotes for non-smoking travellers with no pre-existing health conditions going to Florida for 10 days in February 2022. The quotes are for $5 million in coverage with no deductible.

Traveller(s) Lowest travel insurance quote* ($CAD)
20-year-old individual $22.00
A couple in their 30s $44.00
Parents in their 50s with two teenagers $46.20

*Quotes are taken from the RATESDOTCA travel insurance quoter. They are for illustrative purposes only and are subject to change. Your quotes may vary depending on your personal details.

Don’t forget about domestic travel

There are gaps in the provincial and territorial health care plans, especially when it comes to providing care for Canadians visiting from elsewhere in the country. That will likely come as news to the 54% of Canadians making domestic travel plans this year without any plans to buy insurance (especially when considering nearly half of that group – 22% of those planning an in-Canada vacation this year – said the reason is because they simply don’t need it!)

Ontario residents looking to book a ski trip to Banff or Albertans looking to leer at Niagara Falls this summer take note: Your provincial health insurance program may not pay for medical expenses you incur when outside of your home province. For example: just because Alberta covers ambulance costs for its residents does not mean an Ontario resident can expect a free ambulance ride in Wild Rose country since the Ontario health care system does not.

Besides ensuring those gaps are closed, there are other benefits to getting your domestic travel plans covered: such policies will often include benefits such as trip cancellation or interruption coverage and baggage protection.

There have been enough unpleasant surprises lately; don’t let a lack of travel insurance for your first post-pandemic vacation be one of them.

May 2021 survey details:

An online survey of 1,516 Canadians was completed between May 14-16, 2021, using Leger’s online panel.  No margin of error can be associated with a non-probability sample (I.e. a web panel in this case). For comparative purposes, though, a probability sample of 1,516 respondents would have a margin of error of +/- 2.5%, 19 times out of 20.

February 2020 survey details:

An online survey of 1,514 Canadians was completed between February 7-10, 2020, using Leger’s online panel. No margin of error can be associated with a non-probability sample (I.e. a web panel in this case). For comparative purposes, though, a probability sample of 1,514 respondents would have a margin of error of +/- 2.5%, 19 times out of 20.

Note: only those who have purchased travel insurance in the last three years were reported on (n=665).

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Jameson Berkow

Jameson Berkow is the Managing Editor of RATESDOTCA, responsible for ensuring our content stays focused on helping Canadians make better money decisions. An experienced reporter, editor and broadcaster, Jameson has held senior roles with the Financial Post, BNN Bloomberg and The Globe and Mail. Read more about Jameson on his LinkedIn profile.

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