Case studies: When things go wrong…

Terrorism, natural disasters and increasing crime rates are making travellers consider whether they should look at travel insurance far more carefully. Sue van Winsen reports.


Travel is inherently a risky activity. Taking people out of their comfort zone and into destinations where they may not speak the local language and are unfamiliar with safety precautions makes them far more vulnerable to potentially dangerous situations. These three case studies are evidence of the importance of ensuring your client has considered the value of taking out comprehensive travel insurance.


A terror attack in Tunisia


According to TIC, terror-related disruptions are profoundly affecting the travel industry around the world. As travel becomes more uncertain, travellers are becoming more aware of the importance of taking out a comprehensive travel insurance policy.

TIC recently paid a R1,4m claim when a client, who was on holiday in North Africa, was shot by terrorists. Her claim was paid in full and she was repatriated to South Africa with a medical escort. This is her story:


“My husband and I left South Africa in March last year for a planned five-week overseas holiday. The first leg of our journey was a seven-day Western Mediterranean cruise on board the MSC Splendida. We departed from Rome and a couple of days later we docked at Gaulette Harbour in Tunis.


“We went on an excursion to visit various sites in Tunisia. Around midday, we were at the Bardo Museum – well known for its collection of mosaics. The museum is next to the Parliament Buildings. While we were inside the museum, it was attacked by ISIS terrorists. It was later thought that they were actually targeting the Parliament whose members were planning a discussion on terrorist activities. The terrorists were prevented from entering Parliament and then started to attack the tourists next door in the museum.


“They shot indiscriminately at tourists with AK47 assault rifles. We were all huddled on the floor. Two terrorists entered the room where we were and started shooting at close range. I sustained at least four bullet wounds – three through my body (injuring my bladder, intestines and my hip joint) and one through my foot. The terrorists left us bleeding, some dying, and retreated while they continued their attack. They held some tourists hostage and it took about three hours before the security forces could kill them and send in help to the wounded. Twenty-four people died in total. Miraculously, my husband was not injured.


“I was taken to the Habib Thameur Hospital where emergency operations and blood transfusions were performed to repair my internal injuries. I was in a critical condition and in an induced coma for approximately 10 days. I was treated in ICU for five weeks and then evacuated to the Netcare Unitas hospital in Centurion.


“I am one of those people who reluctantly part with my money when buying travel insurance, although I have always done so. The fact of the matter is that, without travel insurance there is absolutely no way that we would have been able to manage the financial implications of this traumatic event. The fact that we do not have to worry about outstanding financial bills makes the load lighter!”


Twice a victim of theft


Two of TIC’s clients were a couple who travelled frequently. They had visited six continents and 18 countries in just five years. Although most of their travels had been incident free, they required assistance on their last two trips which amounted to a total claim of R37 000. This is their story:


“In Buenos Aires, I was pick-pocketed on a train and my purse, containing R7 000 and my credit cards, was stolen. I was fully reimbursed within days after showing proof of my withdrawal slips.


“When I travelled to Barcelona a few months later, my travel bag, which contained our passports, visas, money, camera and cellphone, was stolen. After contacting TIC, our flights were rebooked, the embassy fees were reimbursed and temporary travel documents were arranged. Within two weeks of submitting our claim, we were reimbursed to our satisfaction.


“It is very important to have travel insurance. Losing passports and visas in a Schengen country is a nightmare, but we were guided through the steps to get back home and we never worried about exceeding our budget with regard to extra flights as we knew that we were covered and would be reimbursed. When you’re in a foreign country there is often a language barrier to deal with, and knowing that help is a telephone call away is a great stress reliever.”