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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Travel insurance premiums may rise with falling rupee

Travellers may have to shell out more for their outbound travel expenses as travel insurance bills may rise due to the sliding rupee.

The claims for outbound travel insurance are paid out by general insurance companies in foreign currency while the insurance companies collect premium in rupees.

The record decline in the value of the Indian rupee has hit the travel portfolio of travel insurance companies, said experts in the insurance industry.

The fall in the Indian rupee, which has seen a depreciation of 22 per cent against the US dollar, from the levels of 44.46 in January 2011 to 54.29 in December, is proving to be a major concern to the travel insurance industry. And analysts estimate that the year 2012 could continue to be a tough for the rupee and it could continue trading in the broad range of 50-54, with some analysts predicting that it may touch 58.

The main claims that insurance companies incur in the travel insurance portfolio is towards emergency medical expenses.

“At present travel insurance market is very competitive in India. One can get a cover for $50,000 for as low as Rs 400 (excluding the US),” said Mr Vikramjeet Singh, Head-Travel Insurance, Bajaj Allianz General Insurance.

“We have priced our premiums with the rupee being at levels of 44/45 and this sharp depreciation in the rupee will force us to think about how long we can continue with premiums at this level,” said Mr Neelesh Garg, Executive Director, ICICI Lombard GIC Ltd.

Insurers travel portfolio hit

“The hit in the travel insurance portfolio is proportionate to the decline in rupee. So an upward revision in premiums rate is on the radar if the current levels of the rupee continue,” said Mr Karan Chopra, Head- Retail Business, bERGO.

So, non-life insurers are faced with a hit of almost 15 to 20 per cent in this portfolio due to the fall in the rupee.

Travel insurance industry is an estimated Rs 300 crore market for the Indian general insurance industry. The travel insurance figures are clubbed with health insurance figures (a much bigger market) in the industry data available.

According to tour operators and insurance companies, Indian outbound travel has seen a double-digit growth over the last few years.

The number of Indians travelling overseas crossed the 12-million mark in May 2011 and is expected to touch 50 million by 2020, the latest industry survey says.

Insurance companies have a specialised product portfolio with travel insurance plans customised for individuals, family floater, senior citizens, and students and for business travellers.


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