Most people don’t like to think about risk — especially when planning a holiday abroad. If they think about travel risk at all, it tends to be in terms of nuisances like flight cancellations or misrouted luggage.
This week’s seemingly overnight collapse of British travel company Thomas Cook – leaving approximately 600,000 travelers stranded worldwide and leading U.K. authorities to launch what has been called be the “largest peacetime repatriation ever” – underscores several of the myriad risks that most travelers rarely think about.
For better or worse, when I hear “repatriation” the word is typically followed in my mind by “of remains.” While mass repatriations like the one occurring this week are rare, people often die while traveling for pleasure or business. Whether it’s headline-grabbing strings of mysterious deaths like those in the Dominican Republic earlier this year or more common, less publicized deaths by auto, drowning, or natural causes, the cost and complexity of returning the bodies of loved ones can compound the stresses typically experienced by grieving families. A travel policy with adequate coverage for repatriation of remains is a relatively inexpensive way to help address this burden.
Now, you’re even more likely to become ill or injured while traveling than you are to die. Have you checked your current health insurance to see what it does and doesn’t cover when you’re traveling outside your country? Depending on what you learn, you may want to consider buying medical travel insurance. If your health policy does provide international coverage, the U.S. State Department advises that you remember to carry your insurance policy identity card and a claim form.
In the case of a serious illness or injury, the State Department says, medical evacuation can cost more than $50,000, depending on your location and condition. A policy that covers medical evacuation and emergency extraction (say, in the event of natural disaster or political unrest) also is worth considering for international trips.
Perhaps the most important lesson to draw from the “surprise” collapse of 178-year-old Thomas Cook is that it wasn’t exactly a surprise for those who were paying attention. As the U.K.-based Guardian news site reports, “The tour operator’s woes go back much further” than its inability to secure a £200 million lifeline from its bankers. The Guardian calls Thomas Cook “a victim of a disastrous merger in 2007, ballooning debts and the internet revolution in holiday booking. Add in Brexit uncertainty, and it was perhaps only a matter of time before the giant of the industry collapsed.”
Travelers often are so focused on capturing bargains that they don’t take the time to research the organizations bringing them great deals or the safety considerations in the lovely destinations being marketed to them. In travel, as in other adventures, it’s often the case that “you get what you pay for.”
Maybe a bit of research might have kept some of the hundreds of thousands of inconvenienced Thomas Cook clients from putting all their holiday eggs in a single overstuffed basket.