Toronto

Federal travel advisory voids insurance for some would-be travellers, but experts say don't panic

The government travel advisory is impacting travellers insurance, experts advise consumers to understand their policies.

Plan ahead and understand your insurance policy if travelling, experts say

Jonathan Quirin, right, is travelling to France to visit his family this holiday season despite the federal advisory that warns against non-essential travel. Quirin says he has no family here. (Submitted by Jonathan Quirin)

Jonathan Quirin doesn't have any family in Toronto, and after months apart due to the pandemic he booked a flight home to France for the holidays.

To be on the safe side, Quirin bought a travel insurance policy. But then Omicron happened, and now the federal government is urging everyone to cancel their international travel plans.

Quirin isn't ready to do that. 

"I'm still going to go," he said. 

The government hasn't introduced any measures that would stop Quirin, but now the policy he purchased will no longer apply because of the government's travel advisory.

"It's not fair," Quirin said. "If something happens to me it's going to come out of my own pocket." 

Quirin said he knew a travel advisory from Ottawa would void his insurance, but when he booked the flight months ago he didn't expect the announcement this week advising Canadians not to travel. 

"I booked early and got vaccinated," he said. "I thought I was good."

Ottawa's travel advisory

On Wednesday, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos made an announcement, asking Canadians with plans to travel abroad to cancel their trips as the highly transmissible Omicron variant spreads worldwide.

To prevent travel-related infections at a time of mounting case counts, the federal government has changed its official guidance, to advise Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel outside the country for the time being.

"To those who were planning to travel, I say very clearly — now is not the time to travel. The rapid spread of the Omicron variant on a global scale makes us fear the worst," Duclos said.

'Change is consistently coming' 

Richard Smart, president and CEO of the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO), said his best advice to travelers is to be on top of any booking they make.

"All we know is that change is consistently coming," Smart said.

TICO advises booking through travel agencies to understand the fine print, so that if policies or trips are cancelled, travellers can more easily tell if they're eligible for a refund or travel credit.

"I encourage consumers not to panic," he said.

Martin Firestone, the president of the insurance company Travel Secure, says his main advice for travellers is to understand their policy.

The goal, he said, is to choose insurance "in full force with no exclusions."

The only other option, he said, is to get a refund guarantee with the airline or the hotel directly, in case of any cancellations.

With files from John Paul Tasker

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