The devastation from recent bushfires is clear in terms of damaged homes and lost lives, but there are secondary issues, like those who’ve had to cancel or amend Christmas travel plans made before this horrific event.
For Australians who have were due to fly out of bushfire affected areas, and now can’t, and for those who were planning to visit ravaged areas and are now unable to, there are options that could alleviate some of the pain of this distressing event.
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“This has been called the ‘most challenging bushfire season ever,’ and it’s affecting everything. It’s not something that people think of, but we’ve seen a dramatic spike in travel insurance claims,” says Richard Warburton, 1Cover’s Chief Operating Officer.
He continues: “We’ve had NSW firefighters who’ve cancelled their travel plans because they’re badly needed at home. We’ve also had people who haven’t been able to get to the airport because of road closures in bushfire affected areas.”
“Others have had to cancel trips centred around events like the World Rally Cars based in Coffs Harbour.”
Warburton says there’s a chance that many families will have to cancel or make changes to her Christmas travel as well. “If your home has been burnt down at this time of the year, or if you had plans to visit an area that’s been affected by the bushfire, things might not come good in time for the festive season.”
Warburton says that travel insurance may be able to help many affected people in NSW and Queensland who have had to cancel overseas travel plans because of the bushfires.
“There’s a misconception that travel insurance won’t help when there’s an event that happens in Australia, but we do cover travellers affected by unforeseen local events.”
“With lives and homes and the environment at stake, travel and holidays can seem meaningless. But if people can recoup thousands of dollars from plans that were made in happier times, then that is a small comfort.”
One such person is Mark Gittoes, who was unable to leave the township of Old Bar, NSW, because the area was surrounded by bushfires and access roads were closed for days. “I was unable to leave Old Bar by any means,” Gittoes said.
“There is only one road in and out, Old Bar Road. As a result of the road closures and fires, I was unable to drive to Sydney to get on my cruise to Fiji.”
Those with domestic travel plans, however, could find themselves out of pocket if they didn’t plan ahead.
“Many people who travel within Australia never bother with travel insurance, thinking problems only happen in regards to overseas trips. But ten percent of our many claims relate to domestic travel.”
As the bushfires continue to rage, there’s a large contingent who are worried about what’s going to happen in the coming weeks. Christmas plans could be spoiled because of health effects from the smoke, or a burned down holiday destination – and this is when a bit of compensation can ease the disappointment.
The first piece of advice Warburton offers to anxious travellers is to remember that you must hold a travel insurance policy before an event takes place.
“Once the bushfires, or any disaster are in swing, you can’t go and buy an insurance policy to assist you.”
The second step, whether you have insurance or not, is to check if suppliers will help you out. If there’s no help to be found from suppliers, then that’s when your travel insurer can step in.
Warburton says that this is a terrible time for Australia. “If we’re able to help in some way, then I’m glad.”