AFTA view March 2017

JAYSON Westbury, chief executive AFTA

Holiday risk taking

The tragic jet ski accident at Kata Beach Phuket Thailand last month which took the life of Emily Collie has attracted an immense amount of consumer media enquiry.

At issue has been the question of how these things occur and what happens when travel insurance is not taken out. For the record, I do not know what the situation was in relation to Ms Collie, and I hope travel insurance was in place.

Stories have been building for some time about the role of government in educating consumers about the risks overseas and the need for travel insurance. The problem clearly is that when people go on holiday they seem to take risks that they would not take at home. Or if that risk was taken, the Australian heavy hand of regulation would more than likely place a level of personal protection that rarely exists, particularly in South East Asia. As such, the idea of riding a motorbike without a helmet or getting on a high-powered jet ski becomes something people do without a second thought. As we know when things like this go wrong they can be fatal. Personal responsibility is key in addressing this.

In fact, in recent interviews on this subject I used the line: “People pack all sorts of things when they go on holiday, but most importantly they should pack their brain”. While a little harsh, the message is that people need to think about what they do on holiday and not blame someone else for their own actions.

As an active participant on the Smartraveller Consultative group which talks about this regularly, I’m not sure it’s a government responsibility to educate consumers. I also don’t believe it’s a travel agent responsibility, though I am sure agents talk to clients about some of the risks. At the end of the day, the traveller is in ultimate control of what risks they take. But when it comes to travel insurance the message does appear to be getting there.

A recent survey by the Insurance Council of Australia found only 8% of departing Australian adults did not take out travel insurance. That means 92% of people are taking out insurance. I recall only five years ago, that number was more like 72% so the message is working. The fact remains however that not all travellers have the right insurance.

I am hopeful that in 2017 we will be able to do more work in this area to ensure that the right travel insurance is purchased. I know that travel agents are best placed to do this, but sadly people will go with the cheapest option, sourced online, or think that their credit card insurance will do the trick.

Much more work needs to be done in this area and AFTA will be talking to the Australian Government and the Insurance Council about how this might be best addressed.

My deepest sympathies go to the Collie family at this time. A really sad story indeed.