Our Five Minutes With… this month is with Peter Hayman of P J Hayman & Company Ltd, the travel insurance specialist and schemes intermediary.
How did you get into travel insurance?
It was my father’s business, which was in Petersfield. That’s going back to the mid-70s. It was a very unprepossessing start; we insured Meon Villas – the business you bought in 2002! That was my introduction to travel insurance, Meon, of all people.
How has it been during Covid?
Since March 2020, I’ve been running the office from the dining table. We had 40 staff at the time and I purchased 25 laptops and we kept it going. We’ve never had such a good year as 2019/20; then with Covid we went from that to just over a tenth of our income. We had to shrink down to 24 staff, but we are rehiring now. Travel insurance sales have encouragingly recovered to nearly 80% of pre-Covid levels.
What was the Covid impact on insurance?
It took insurers two weeks to realise they had to do something about it – and what they did was exclude it. Then insurers covered the medical, but it did take until around August before they introduced cover that went beyond medical – and bear in mind in August 2020 we thought we’d be travelling in September. Of course, we didn’t, so cover got extended further. We were then in a situation where there was no cancellation cover for the public and there was no insurance for all the travel disruption and the impact of government decisions. The industry paid millions in claims and continued to adapt throughout the pandemic. Every one of our insurers had differing solutions… some good and supportive and, some not so.
What should business travellers look out for?
A fair number of corporate policies still have a pandemic exclusion… full stop. Mostly, one can only get cover for medical and very few insurers will give extended cancellation cover as they expect the airlines and travel industry to maintain flexibility. Certainly nobody will give travel disruption insurance. I suspect a lot of business travellers don’t even know what their cover is. The industry has still not established a long-term endemic strategy and each insurer takes their own view.
Is a bolt-on to a commercial combined policy adequate?
Quite often, it’s extremely good. The big players’ attitude to business travel is to not have too many exclusions, so you’ll have high limits on cancellation cover, for example. We can buy these as a stand-alone but if its business travel or group personal accident travel the business insurance communities scope of cover is pretty good, and would be based on travel frequency. It’s good cover – insurers don’t want to upset their main insurance programme customers by declining a claim.
Any business travel advice you’d recommend?
The key thing is the booking, make sure the T&Cs are as flexible as possible, because in many respects this is your best form of insurance, certainly as a business. A flexible ticket may feel more expensive but it can work out a lot cheaper than an inflexible lost ticket.
Are there any useful websites you discovered during Covid?
For up-to-date news, Travelmole is very good. For corporate buyers the security feeds are good to have access to. You get those thrown in with a good Travel Management Company like Meon.
What’s your favourite dinner party story?
A claim we had on our Travel Plus product. The son of a policy holder was in Utah and managed to fall on a rattlesnake, ouch!
The helicopter rescue was billed at $60,000; it probably took them 30 minutes. The charge for the antivenom was the big shock. The local rate was roughly $2,000 per vial with a course of four required so, thank heavens for travel insurance you ‘d think. The hospital charged $168,000 for the antivenom alone plus hospital treatment and care. This is why you need insurance.
Is there one piece of advice you would give a traveller nowadays?
Buy, buy, buy insurance and if not yourself then make sure your company clearly checks medical and repatriation cover for Covid.
Peter Hayman is Managing Director of P J Hayman & Company Ltd and formerly Chairman of the Association of Travel Insurance Intermediaries, the Association responsible for upwards of 80% of travel insurers covering UK individuals and corporates international travel.