This defies all common sense:
Insurance Services has recently deemed four nations to be so dangerous that "we
made a corporate underwriting decision to exclude coverage for travel in,
to, or through such countries".
So, who are the forbidden four? Three of them have reputations as hotspots,
with widespread lawlessness and violence prevailing: Afghanistan, Liberia
and Sudan. And the fourth: my old favourite, Cuba.
Why should an island that welcomes hundreds of thousands of British
holidaymakers every year suddenly find itself consigned to the danger zone?
For the answer, Direct Travel referred me to its parent company, AIG, which
recently took over the insurer. The company told me it decided earlier this
year "that the risks arising from the continued provision of cover
under our travel policies in respect of destinations such as Afghanistan,
Cuba, Liberia and Sudan were unacceptably high at the present time".
So why the sudden decision to downgrade it? One former Direct
Travel policyholder, Alasdair Gibson, believes the move was triggered by the
takeover: "As an American company, AIG is in effect seeking to extend
to its British customers the legal ban on travel to Cuba that applies to all
American citizens, and is acting as an agent of the US administration."
He calls this "a monstrous interference in the workings of the UK-based
travel insurance industry – and an affront to all like me who have been
clients of Direct Travel since long before its takeover by AIG."
"We are sorry that your reader is dissatisfied with the situation,"
says AIG. I was keen to find out what the company knows about Cuba that the
rest of the insurance industry, not to mention leading international
agencies, do not. I also wanted to know if AIG was lobbying the Foreign
Office and bodies such as Abta to make them aware of the risks, pointing out
that a holiday in Havana was as fraught with danger as a city break in
Kabul. This is the company's response, in its entirety:
"If travellers have questions about holiday destinations, there are a
variety of sources available for consultation, such as the Foreign and
Commonwealth Office and the internet. We evaluate risks using different
criteria and parameters and this information is proprietary to AIG." In
other words: we're not saying.
Meanwhile the "Canadian" owned President's Choice Financial Insurance Company will gladly sell travel to any country in the world except Cuba. When questioned the response was they didn't want to offend their "foreign partners".
Just once it would be great if there was a list of "Canadian" companies that placed American imperial interests ahead of ours so that effective action could be taken against them.
Until then, I guess the old saying about a capitalist selling you the rope isn't true after all.