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Insurance issue must be tackled

May 21st, 2022 5:10 PM

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AT a time when the country is hoping that a tourism revival will inject a much-needed boost into our local economies, it would be reasonable to assume that the government would be pulling out all the stops to make that happen.

But, as a wise person once said, ‘assume’ makes an ‘ass’ of ‘u’ and ‘me’ and so it is also wise not to engage is such lofty projections.

While this paper reported on Fáilte Ireland’s equally lofty plan for West Cork tourism last week – a five-year plan no less – this week we are reporting on an issue that could throw a major spanner in the works of that very same plan – insurance.

The ridiculous premiums having being charged for years at all levels of the industry in this country, when compared with similar premia in other countries, is not news anymore.

But what is news, is the fact that at a time when our country is trying desperately to recover some of the lost business of the past two years, our insurance industry seems to be pushing in the opposite direction.

The various case studies we have unearthed this week tell their own stories – hotels, which have been closed, or offering vastly reduced options, for the past 26 months, are finding the cost of their policies has risen. Yes you read that right – the policies have increased, although they have been doing little or no business for two years.

It seems the industry is now penalising hotels for predicting their business is going to increase, which, of course it is, given that it is starting from an almost standing-still position since early 2020.

But it appears the industry algorithms cannot account for a pandemic – and so, in their eyes, an increase in business must bring with it increased risk, hence increased costs.

Hotels are now finding themselves in what they perceive as a ‘high risk’ category of cover, although in many instances this is even on policies that are run separately from any adventure activities on site – which of course, many have had to add, in order to entice families to continue their staycations, rather than leave the country.

The hotels that are being penalised for projecting an increase in business in the next year or so, have noted that they received no discounts for closed, or reduced operating times, over the past two years.

What’s more, any firms offering outdoor activities are most certainly finding themselves in the ‘high risk’ sector, and some have had to curtain their offerings as a result.

Some cannot get cover at all, for certain activities, or the premiums quoted are so high as to be effectually unavailable to them.

The owner of an astro turf pitch in Dublin compared his premium with a similar operation in the UK and told RTÉ recently that he was being charged between three and six times more than his British counterpart.

In recent years the industry blamed our high claims culture in this country for our high insurance costs.

So just over a year ago guidelines for personal injury claims were introduced. And yes, it has helped reduce claims – by an average of over 40%. So why hasn’t this been passed onto the customer?

Because nobody is holding the industry to account.

The government that promised to tackle the industry head-on is now turning the other cheek when presented with the facts.

Meanwhile, our hospitality, leisure and adventure businesses – the mainstay of our tourism industries – are, literally, paying the price for the inaction of our legislators.

‘Premiums are on the rise, claims are on the decrease, but regulation is slow,’ said one hotelier this week.

If the government doesn’t speed up its promise to tackle the issue, we may forget our ambitious five-year plans to bring more tourists here. There may be nowhere for them to stay. And even less for them to do.

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