SOURCE: Europ Assistance USA

October 30, 2007 09:00 ET

Pre-Travel Precautions Mitigate Risk and Stress for Leisure Travelers

1 in 4 Travelers Forced to Wire Money or Rely on Credit Cards in Midst of Travel Emergency: Majority Compare Travel Stress to Car Accident or Family Problems

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwire - October 30, 2007) - Europ Assistance USA, the professional ally for people in crisis or distress, offering compassionate support and problem resolution, today announced the results of a national travel survey that shows American consumers possess only limited knowledge of common travel complications and what it takes to successfully address them. With the onset of the busy holiday travel season in a year during which records for travel-related delays have been shattered, Europ Assistance encourages travelers to prepare themselves for unexpected, but unfortunately common, travel complications. Unforeseen troubles can include medical emergencies and other circumstances that require fast access to medical, legal, and financial resources.

"Our survey of 1,500 American travelers illuminated some surprising issues," said Jessica Ashley, Director of Marketing, Europ Assistance USA. "We support 35 million US travelers, 365 days a year. With that volume of support, we expected that preparedness among travelers would be higher. But, based on the survey results, most travelers are still unaware of potential issues, and thus more likely to experience confusion and chaos if something happens. More than thirty percent of those surveyed said they would not know how to locate help if something unfortunate happened when traveling."

According to the Bureau of Travel Statistics (BTS) of the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Thanksgiving holiday period traditionally brings a 54 percent increase in the number of long-distance (50 or more miles) trips. BTS said the Christmas/New Year holidays bring about a 23 percent increase in long-distance trips, though that travel period can cover 2-3 times as many travel days. Clearly, Americans travel extensively during the final 4-6 weeks of each year.

Of those consumers surveyed, nearly one-third said they did not know how to locate needed medical or other help while traveling, accounting in part for the finding that 44 percent would purchase additional insurance coverage for medical emergencies if offered while booking travel.

Even without complications, consumers find holiday travel stressful. The EA survey found that 42 percent of consumers compare the stress of holiday travel to that of a minor car accident, and 46 percent find it as stressful as a fight with a friend or loved one.

Still, only 16 percent of respondents said the risk of illness or having to rely on inadequate medical facilities while traveling has an effect on their holiday travel decisions. The costs of certain medical emergency events were also foreign to U.S. consumers. The cost of air ambulance service for example, which can exceed $100,000, was not known to two-thirds of those responding to the survey.

While no one can ever anticipate exactly what complications they may experience during a holiday trip, preparation should include consideration of the kinds of things that could happen. Just as travelers who are under continuous medical care make sure they account for their conditions when making travel plans, all consumers should consider the possibility that medical or other emergencies might occur, especially when traveling outside their home countries. Arranging for assistance before the trip may not always be a top priority, but it can go a long way toward making any trip less stressful.

EA encourages travelers to understand their insurance coverage before they travel. In many cases, travelers assume their medical coverage will be enough. However, medical evacuation and repatriation is not always included; and even when medical coverage does address the cost of care travelers are forced to pay up front and out of pockets.

About Europ Assistance USA

Europ Assistance USA, headquartered in Washington, DC, is a part of the multinational Europ Assistance Group and its network of 71 companies, 5,000 employees and more than 850,000 service providers and medical personnel offering assistance services in 208 countries and territories around the globe. For close to half a century, the group has tailored solutions for assisting people wherever they may be and helping them respond to the unexpected throughout their daily lives. Services include emergency medical transportation, medical referrals, case monitoring claims management, identity theft resolution and data breach response services. Twenty-four hours a day at 34 assistance centers worldwide, multilingual assistance coordinators answer more than two calls per second and handle one assistance case every two seconds. www.europassistance-usa.com

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