Keeping up with COVID – what travel agents need to know about their responsibilities and obligations as travel restarts

November 18, 2021

With vaccination rates on the rise across Australia, interstate and, for some, international travel are back on the agenda.

And, finally, business is beginning to pick up for travel agents across the country.

But insurers have warned that travel agents should avoid giving clients information or advice in relation to travel and COVID-19, including on topics such as border restrictions, quarantine requirements or vaccination requirements.

While it’s understandable that travel agents want to do everything they can to assist their clients in planning trips, the information, rules and regulations are changing rapidly, and they risk being caught out by giving incorrect advice.

Insurers say providing advice about pandemics “may not be deemed to be a part of the professional services of a travel agent, and therefore their professional indemnity or public liability policy may not respond in the event that a claim is brought against them”.

By adopting a cautionary approach, travel agents will protect themselves and reduce the potential to be exposed to complaints or claims from travellers whose plans are impacted as a result of COVID-19.

Instead, clients have a responsibility to make themselves aware of the restrictions, challenges and possible consequences of travelling during a pandemic, and should be directed to make their own enquiries about how COVID-19 may impact their travel plans.

It is up to clients to ensure they meet the current COVID-19 travel regulations and advisories for their departure point, destination, and any transit points prior to booking. This includes border declarations, testing and quarantine requirements, medical expenses insurance requirements and related documentation.

Resources they could be directed to include various state government and federal government websites for both their home state or country and destination state or country.

For updated information about inbound or outbound flights from Australia the Department of Home Affairs website or the Australian Government’s Smart Traveller website contain useful information.

When it comes to travel insurance, the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) says travel insurance is available for international travel, and some insurers have introduced cover for various COVID-related travel situations to destinations other than those few countries that continue to carry a level 4 ‘Do Not Travel’ advisory from the Australian Government.

The ICA says that while the introduction of COVID-19 cover has not significantly impacted insurance premium costs, not all travel policies will automatically cover the pandemic. Some insurers may offer this as an add-on for an additional cost, while others will include it in the policy as part of the overall cost.

For some destinations, inbound travellers will be required to have a minimum amount of insurance cover specifically for COVID-19 related medical expenses. For more information about travel insurance, clients should be directed to their travel insurer’s website or the ICA website.

If you’d like more information about COVID-19 advice and your professional indemnity or public liability insurance, please contact us at:

E: travel@gowgates.com.au 

T: 1300 165 116

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