On any normal year as Dasara and Deepavali come calling, people tick off items from their shopping lists and start making travel times. But 2020 is unlike any year in recent memory, with a pandemic bringing normal life to a halt. That said, as restrictions ease and families acclimatise themselves to a life where social distancing and face masks are the norm, many have started making travel plans for the holidays.

As the tourism sector is seeing signs of recovery, some companies – travel and insurance – have started offering COVID-19 insurance to encourage travellers to venture out despite the pandemic.

MakeMyTrip, for instance, has started offering a COVID-19 specific insurance for travellers. “People are putting their trust back in travel, one step at a time. The pandemic has changed consumer behaviour in many ways and when it comes to travel, safety naturally tops the priority chart. The uncertainty of these times has pushed travellers to opt for the insurance options more than before. Mapping this trend, MakeMyTrip rolled out an option for COVID-19 insurance, which benefits travellers with coverage of ₹2 lakh per customer, while air insurances typically have lower cover for health issues,” a spokesperson of MakeMyTrip told The Hindu.

The insurance covers hospitalisation for 16 days post-travel in case of COVID-19 infection as it usually takes around 14 days for the virus to surface, unlike air insurances which cover illness for the day of travel or up to 72 hours, the spokesperson explained. Other benefits covered under the COVID-19 insurance include zero restrictions on room rent, consumables, post-hospitalisation diagnostics, etc.

“A health crisis like COVID-19 demanded special attention and benefits that extend support beyond the normal. To address this need, the company has introduced special insurance of this nature for the first time. We are seeing a good uptake for this insurance considering people prioritising their health and safety more than ever before,” the spokesperson added.

Sanjar Imam, president of the Karnataka Tourism Forum, said most of those who are travelling are opting for travel insurance that covers emergency hospitalisation and medical expenses incurred on the treatment of COVID-19. “A couple of travel companies are offering the insurance for free when a package of a certain amount is booked. However, it is really not a value-add as the premium amount gets built in the package or is considered instead of discounting,” he added.

Meanwhile, the sector is reporting “encouraging signs” since travel restrictions were eased, bringing major relief to months of lull, and most players are pinning their hopes on the upcoming holidays.

“Within Karnataka, weekends are doing fairly well, especially in the higher segment, as hotels are almost full. Weekdays are suffering still with 20% to 30% occupancy. Travel beyond Karnataka has not picked up yet. But the premium sector is seeing some recovery. In the higher segment, people are driving out of Bengaluru for weekends, especially if they are extended,” Mr. Imam said.

According to MakeMyTrip, there is a surge in the number of searches and bookings for short-haul trips, more so to destinations located within 300 km from metro cities.

“Even as demand for outbound tourism will stay soft, we are seeing good traction for Dubai and Maldives as travel opens up to the two short-haul international destinations from India,” a spokesperson said.

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