Impact of Kenyan troubles


We are becoming ever more adventurous in our choice of holiday destination. The recent civil unrest in Kenya has brought into focus the repercussions which such events can have for tourists, and of course the importance of having adequate travel insurance.

Anyone planning a holiday in Kenya, at the time of the troubles, would naturally have had some questions. "Is it safe to travel to Kenya?" "What rights do I have if I cancel?" And of course - "will my travel insurance cover me if I decide to carry on with my plans?"

The first port of call in such circumstances should be the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website, which gives up to date advice on trouble spots around the world. If the FCO advises against all but essential travel, then it is up to the individual traveller to make an informed decision as to whether or not their travel is essential. As a spokeswoman for the FCO put it "We cannot dictate to people and tour operators whether to go ahead with holidays; it is up to them what decision to make based on our advice." Whilst you might decide to take the risk if you are flying out to see a dying relative for instance, it is unlikely that a holiday can ever be classified as essential travel. For legal reasons tour operators will normally suspend package holidays once that advice is issued by the FCO. When this happens you will usually be offered a refund or an alternative holiday.

For the independent traveller the situation is less straightforward. British Airways and Virgin, for example, continued to fly to Nairobi during the troubles and it was left up to the individual traveller to evaluate the risk and decide whether to travel or not. If they opted to continue with their plans, the thorny question arose as to whether their travel policy would still be valid. Many insurance companies take the view that ignoring FCO advice is akin to leaving your handbag unattended on the front seat of your car. Insurers expect you to take reasonable care of your belongings (and your person!) and in ignoring advice from the appropriate authorities you could be said to be exposing yourself to unnecessary risk. If you were injured in Kenya as a result of the problems there, it looks as though any assistance given would be very much at the discretion of the insurance company. However, according to a spokesman for the Association of British Insurers, most insurance companies would be "unlikely to leave you high and dry" if disaster struck whilst on holiday.


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