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Agents should alert to the dangers of inadequate insurance cover

Swine flu should not stop people going on holiday, says ABTA chairman

Fears of the swine flu pandemic should not stop customers going ahead with their holiday plans, but agents should alert them to the dangers of inadequate insurance cover, ABTA chairman John McEwan has warned. McEwan made his comments in a week when the national media reported that airlines were screening passengers for the signs of the virus, and amid growing confusion over travel advice…

Fears of the swine flu pandemic should not stop customers going ahead with their holiday plans, but agents should alert them to the dangers of inadequate insurance cover, ABTA chairman John McEwan has warned.

McEwan made his comments in a week when the national media reported that airlines were screening passengers for the signs of the virus, and amid growing confusion over travel advice for pregnant women and other vulnerable groups.

"As the health secretary Andy Burnham said this week, people should really get on with their lives – it has to be business as usual," said McEwan.

"It is a cause for concern, you can’t pretend otherwise, and there have been unfortunate deaths. But the majority [of people infected] have been ill for four or five days, and have made a full recovery. People should not overreact and should not be overly concerned."

McEwan urged agents to make customers aware of the importance of travel insurance. "The underlying message for agents is that customers should go ahead with their holiday plans, but make sure they have adequate cover," said McEwan. "A recent survey revealed that 25% of people do not have travel insurance or do not plan to get it. In the current climate, if a holiday is unprotected it could end up being very expensive, so it’s important, as part of their service, that agents ask people if they are covered or not."

The progress of the spread of the virus was not of a big enough scale at the moment, said McEwan, but he admitted it could take on a different dimension in the autumn.

A study in the August edition of The Lancet Infectious Diseases has suggested that if the pandemic does peak in the autumn, the government should consider closing schools to curtail the spread of the disease. McEwan suggested this could offer some opportunities for travel agents. "Such a move could extend the family holiday season," said McEwan. "It depends on when that decision would be made, but there is definitely a potential window of opportunity [for agents]."

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