Travel advisories have assumed great importance in endeavouring to secure the safety and security of travellers (see Chapter 21). National governments regularly update their travel advisories, which are often included as part of information supplied by computerised databases used in travel medicine. Travellers and tourists have been confronted by recent acts of terrorism, resulting in numerous casualties, most recently during the 12 October, 2002 bombings in Kuta, Bali, Indonesia, which required a rapid multiagency response to rescue foreign nationals trapped in Bali, where under-resourced local health facilities were quickly overwhelmed by both local and tourist casualties (Leggat & Leggat, 2004; Hampson, Cook, & Frederiksen, 2002).
Travel Insurance Because of the potentially high costs of medical and dental treatment abroad, which may not be covered by private health insurance or local national health services, and the potential high costs associated with AME, all travellers should be advised of the need for comprehensive travel insurance. Travel insurance policies normally underwrite travel-related, medical and dental expenses incurred by travellers abroad under conditions specified by the travel insurance policy. In addition, travel insurance companies often provide a direct service, usually through their emergency assistance service contractors, to assist travellers abroad.
This may include assisting with accessing or obtaining medical care while overseas, including AME (see Chapter 3). Claims for reimbursement of medical and dental expenses abroad made up more than two-thirds of all travel insurance claims in Australia (Leggat et al., 2002). In that study, almost one in five Australian travellers abroad have been found to use the travel insurer’s emergency assistance service (Leggat et al., 2002).
Travel insurance is the most important safety net for travellers in the event of illness, injury or unforeseen events, and should be reinforced by travel health advisers. Recent studies have shown about 60% of GPs in New Zealand (Leggat, Heydon, & Menon, 1998), 39% of GPs in Australia (Seelan & Leggat, 2003), and 39% of travel clinics worldwide (Hill & Behrens, 1996) usually advise travellers concerning travel insurance.
In addition, 54% of GPs in New Zealand also usually advised travellers about ways to find medical assistance abroad, but in the same study only 19% of GPs recommended travel insurance companies as a source of medical assistance while travelling (Leggat et al., 1998). However, it is not known what proportion of travel agents or airlines routinely give advice on travel insurance.