The Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada

The Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada

June 25, 2008 08:30 ET

High Gas Prices Not Expected to Deter Snowbird Travel This Winter

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 25, 2008) - Despite high gasoline prices and soaring airline fares, travel health insurers expect Canadian snowbirds to hold fast to their winter vacation ritual this coming winter.

"Just the thought of last year's particularly long and cruel winter is quite enough to prompt Canada's snowbirds to begin looking for 'early bird specials' for next season's out-of-country insurance coverage," says Juliann Martyniuk, president of the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THIA).

"And though record high gas prices are a major concern, the fact they are some 20 percent cheaper in the U.S., where snowbirds will spend the winter months, may ease that concern a little," she said. "So will the continuing strength of the Canadian dollar, which continues to trade at near parity with the U.S. dollar, a fact that fortifies Canadians' purchasing power in the U.S. sunbelt."

"Early bird specials," which are offered by many travel insurers during the summer or early fall months, allow snowbirds to "lock in" premiums at existing levels prior to the release of new rates for the coming snowbird season. Traditionally, many experienced snowbirds start shopping for such specials during the summer months.

Ms. Martyniuk noted that though there is no current indication there may be travel insurance premium hikes this fall, "in the face of continuing U.S. health care cost increases and rising consumer price indices, we mighty well anticipate some price increases."

The Conference Board of Canada projects that snowbirds (55 years and older travelling for at least 31 consecutive nights) will make more than 750,000 out-of-country trips through the 2008/2009 season. That is up more than 73 percent since the low of 433,000 in 2000. Surveys have shown that more than 80 percent of snowbirds buy private travel health insurance to cover themselves while out of the country for emergency medical services not paid for by their provincial health plans.

Traditionally, many Canadian snowbirds begin their southbound trek after Thanksgiving, with their vacation season peaking from January through March.

About THIA. THIA is the national organization representing travel insurers, brokers, underwriters, re-insurers, emergency assistance companies, air ambulance companies and allied services. Its website is www.THIAonline.com.

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