ST PETE BEACH, FL January 19th, 2009 –Thousands of tourists to other parts of the Caribbean could be affected by Haiti’s unfolding catastrophe, and it’s a wake-up call for anyone planning a trip to an earthquake-prone region warns Squaremouth.com, America’s fastest growing comparison website for travel insurance.
Haiti shares its border with popular tourist spot the Dominican Republic so Squaremouth is fielding calls not just from concerned Haitian-Americans hoping to get home to help out families touched by the disaster, but also from travelers who have booked trips nearby.
Everyone wants to know if travel insurance will continue to cover them in the wake of the disaster. But Squaremouth advises not to buy travel insurance expecting to be covered for upcoming trips anywhere near the earthquake zone.
“If you bought travel insurance after January 12, it’s quite likely you won’t be covered if something happens while you’re traveling to an area affected by Haiti’s earthquake,” warned Squaremouth’s Chief Executive Chris Harvey, referring to the date the magnitude 7 earthquake struck near Port-au-Prince.
In general, travel insurance policies don’t cover events related to natural disasters in progress or that have just happened. Even an approaching hurricane wouldn’t be covered if officials have already given it a name, Harvey explained.
The exception to the rule is “Cancel for any Reason” coverage, a catch-all policy that, if purchased within 14 to 30 days of an initial deposit payment, allows for cancellation of a trip without explanation.
Cancel for any Reason benefits typically add about 40 percent to the price of insurance, and reimburse a maximum of 80 percent of the trip cost.
Customers who bought travel insurance before January 12th should also scan the fine print of their policy for key phrases, such as:
* “Mandatory Evacuation” – Means an official evacuation order has been given, preventing the policyholder from arriving at their destination or forcing an early end to their trip.
* “Complete Cessation of a Common Carrier” – Refers to an airline, cruise line, bus or rail company — or any other travel supplier – that has completely halted service to a disaster zone.
* “Accommodation at Destination Made Uninhabitable” — Applies if the hotel where a traveler planned to stay was destroyed by an earthquake or other natural disaster. Often, the disaster has to happen within a set timeframe prior to departure to qualify for coverage.
The wording in those three instances can radically affect the payout of a policy. For instance, an airport needs to be out of service, with flights entirely shut down, for 24 to 48 hours, depending on the policy, before reimbursement kicks in. “You could spend a harrowing 48 hours trying to get in or out of a country that’s dealing with a disaster, and it’s all on you,” Harvey said.
Travelers to the Dominican Republic and neighboring countries should check their policy’s wording as well. “If you’re a certain distance away from the earthquake zone, you may not be covered,” he added.
And some benefits that don’t even specifically refer to earthquakes or natural disasters could apply in this case. Emergency medical and medical evacuation coverage, for example, may be available to people who traveled to Haiti and were injured during the disaster. Or there may be reimbursement available to travelers who were in Haiti during the earthquake but couldn’t continue their trip because of injury or another covered reason.
With so many fine points to watch out for, Squaremouth’s CEO recommends buying travel insurance policies that come with diverse, overlapping benefits. “It’s the best way to ensure that after a disaster, you’ll be covered in some form or another.”
Squaremouth is America’s fastest growing travel insurance comparison site, helping customers instantly quote, compare and buy policies from every major carrier. Squaremouth has web sites in the US and UK, and an extensive network of partner sites worldwide. The company is headquartered in St Pete Beach, FL., with offices in Fort Wayne, IN. Visit Squaremouth.com or Squaremouth.co.uk.
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