Michelle Hara No Comments

Survey results from pollsters Ipsos Reid and on-line travel community TripAdvisor published earlier this summer have found that Canadian leisure travelers are not protecting themselves while away from home. Moreover, Canadians are lagging behind travelers in other parts of the world.

Is this due to a lack of understanding of the benefits of proper travel insurance coverage, or is there more to this disturbing trend that is placing Canadians at greater risk of financial and medical hazard? It would appear that for many, Canada’s long-standing faith in the country’s healthcare system may be to blame.

Ipsos Reid polled more than 2,200 Canadians in the spring of 2008 and found that 50.1 per cent of them who travel to the US ‘always of usually’ buy travel insurance. In contrast, results from a worldwide survey of some 3,700 TripAdvisor members found that 75 per cent of worldwide respondents, and 60 per cent of US respondents, purchased travel insurance in the last year. Why such a disparity on coverage?

In part, it’s due to our mistaken belief that our existing provincial medical coverage will protect us should we need it abroad, or anywhere else in the country. Yet the reality is that our universal healthcare system only covers a fraction of any medical emergency outside of a traveler’s home province, not to mention it’s also very different from one region of the country to the next.

For example, some of the highest coverage rates for medical expenses come from the Maritime provinces, whereas some of the lowest can be found in British Columbia where residents rarely receiver more than $75 a day for emergency medical costs.

Due to these regional differences, the Ipsos Reid survey found that as many as 60 per cent of all British Columbians polled purchased travel insurance for travel to the US, whereas only 40.7 per cent of Maritimes do. As for inter-provincial travel, only 38.2 per cent of Canadian respondents said they protected themselves with additional travel coverage.

The reality is the most Canadians are not positioned to pay out thousands of dollars in hospital bills or expect to have to deal with the disappointing loss of their hard-earned vacation due to cancellations or interruptions. It’s true that some travelers feel that their employment or credit card insurance plans adequately cover them; however the truth is that most won’t cover up-front payments for things as basic as ambulance fees.

It’s important to learn the benefits of a property-protected vacation. In doing so, travelers will not only continue to turn them as their insurance experts, but they will also benefit from the peace of mind and protection that is so important when away from home.