Test driving a new BMW motorcycle in the German Alps. Ziplining through the forest canopy of Costa Rica. Travelers are increasingly looking for experiences beyond the typical “holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa” Instagram photos.
But, as more travelers push the limits on their vacation travel adventures, agents need to revisit travel insurance coverage for their clients, and ensure that they have the right policies in place to protect them in the event of an accident.
“What we are seeing is the adventure travel market growing significantly,” said Thomas Bochnowski, vice president at Redpoint Resolutions LLC, in San Francisco. “We’re definitely seeing a shift from the more traditional leisurely cruise, sitting on a beach, to travelers venturing out to more risky activities.”
“In the Bay Area, where I live, there’s been a shift from ‘Check out my cool new Tesla, to let me tell you about my cool experience in Nepal.’ People value more of the unique experiences than physical toys, and that has ramifications for how they purchase travel insurance,” Bochnowski said.
The Adventure Travel Trade Association estimates that more than 40 percent of international travelers engage in some kind of adventurous activities, and that the market exceeds $680 billion in annual sales.
Traditional travel insurance likely excludes activities like riding a motorcycle, deep sea scuba diving, or participating in a competitive race, potentially leaving travelers at risk.
A Ripcord solution
Redpoint Resolutions was started by former special operations forces members, physicians, and insurance actuaries, so that travelers could enjoy more adventurous activities without the worry.
Redpoint’s most relevant product for the adventure travel market is Ripcord Travel Insurance, which offers traditional coverage like medical and trip cancellation for risky activities, and adds in medical evacuation and rescue coverage, as well as access to paramedic services and medical consultation during a crisis.
In July, an Israeli honeymooner on a cruise died while taking a ziplining shore excursion in Honduras. He did not realize that his wife was stuck halfway down the line, and crashed into her at a high speed.
The couple suffered multiple injuries, including broken ribs, and were taken to a local hospital, where the husband passed away. Some news reports said that the couple had a difficult time understanding their treatment given the differences in languages.
In this case, Bochnowski said, Ripcord insurance would have covered the cost of evacuating the man to another hospital immediately, up to $750,000, if that was the couple’s desire. (The wife was transported to a Florida hospital the next day, where she was stabilized.)
“People believe that a competing insurance product will come and get them and take them home. No one looks at the fine print and sees that they will be evacuated to the nearest appropriate facility. In a place like, say Patagonia, which would be Santiago [Chile]. Also, that evacuation needs to be authorized by an attending physician,” he said.
For Ripcord clients, the best facility is determined by the client, in consultation with Redpoint experts reached via telephone. “If a traveler has an urgent medical situation, they will determine together where they want their treatment done,” he said.
RipCord was started because more travelers were taking on adventures in remote locations, “like big game hiking, trekking in Mongolia,” said Bochnowski. “We saw people doing adventurous physical activities, but there wasn’t a product that fit their needs. The fine print of most insurance policies didn’t cover them.”
Jim Mallas was injured when he was riding a motorcycle in Tanzania during a May 2018 trip, and needed to be evacuated. He had booked the trip using miles and a credit card concierge for his flight, and made other arrangements himself. Lucky for Mallas, he also had purchased insurance from Boston-based Global Rescue, an insurance company that includes higher-end emergency and medical evacuation services, and which covers activities like motorcycling in international destinations.
“I travel overseas once or twice a year. I have always purchased travel insurance of some kind,” Mallas, who is from Colorado, told Travel Market Report. “A long time ago, I used a standard insurance plan for an adventure trip and wouldn't again. I have used other plain insurance when traveling to Europe on sightseeing vacations. I am much more comfortable knowing that they specialize in that, as opposed to just helping sort out the inconvenience of lost luggage.”