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Holiday a time for “rich” pickings for opportunists

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The fast-approaching festive season is an exciting time for many families who pack their bags, lock their homes, and make their way to popular destinations like Plettenberg Bay or Ballito, or even global beach or ski destinations, to begin their holiday. Unfortunately, for opportunists, thieves, and criminals, it can also be a time of rich pickings.

“There is nothing that ruins a holiday quicker than the news of theft – from name-brand luggage and expensive gifts meant for others, to valuable items stolen during a break-in,” says Tarina Vlok, MD at Elite Risk, a high-net worth insurer and subsidiary of Old Mutual Insure.

She urges those who are travelling overseas over the festive break to ensure they are adequately insured for common losses resulting from lost or stolen baggage, or theft of personal devices like phones, cameras, or tablets.

“For expensive name-brand luggage – which can run into hundreds of thousands of rands – always put on a fragile sticker on your bag, consider a protective slipcover, and take a photo of your luggage before checking it in. Also keep your valuables on you rather than checking it in,” says Vlok, reminding policyholders that if suitcases are damaged during transit, say clasps and straps, it may not be easy to replace given that luggage repairs often mean that suitcases need to be sent overseas to get fixed, resulting in unexpected delays or long lead times.

“This is especially so if it is a once-off or bespoke item, making it difficult to replace quickly, and often the case with luxury bags. It is better to try and protect your luggage as best as possible.”

She adds that it may be a good idea to get a smart luggage tag, which allows you to track your bag’s location from your phone. “This can be very handy if your luggage goes missing, or doesn’t arrive at your destination,” says Vlok.

The good news is, if you have insurance, it is likely that your suitcase and its contents are insured under the ‘all risks’ section of your policy, for every local or global trip.

“Travel insurance, however, is something different, and is an additional product that needs to be acquired before travelling,” says Vlok, adding that if the unfortunate had to happen overseas and you were injured, travel insurance will pay for your medical costs and if necessary to bring you back to South Africa.

“Travel insurance is not automatically included with your non-life insurance. You may have embedded travel insurance with your credit card, but it is always best to speak to your broker or insurer to ensure that you have sufficient travel insurance cover,” says Vlok.

If you are travelling to South Africa’s popular holiday coastal towns, along the Whale Coast, West Coast, Garden Route, or Kwa-Zulu Natal, it is worthwhile to remember that many of these small yet affluent towns, can get extremely congested.

“If you are travelling to places like Plettenberg Bay, Hermanus, Knysna or Ballito for holiday, the shops or the beach will become very busy, making finding parking for SUVs, big or luxury vehicles, or trailers and boats, tricky. Fender benders or scratches and dents are common; rather see if you can park further away and walk the extra distance to avoid unpleasant surprises when you get back to your car,” says Vlok.

In 2021 a study by Australian Associated Motor Insurers (AAMI) found that shopping centre car-park collisions soar during the “silly season”. It found that highest number of shopping centre car-park collisions (2,554) occurred in December, followed closely by January (2,106). It also found approximately 40% more car park crashes in December than the monthly average for the 12 months to November 30, 2021.

She says that a good tip is to save the emergency assistance number of your insurer on your phone before departing for holiday in case you are in an accident or victim of a crime involving your vehicle.

Vlok adds that it is important to park in safe and secure areas, especially if travelling with visible gear and equipment, like bicycles, surfboards, kayaks, or Stand-Up Paddleboards (SUPs).

“Remember, it is the onus of the policyholder to ensure equipment is properly secured, failing which, the sad likelihood is that it may not be there when you get back. We see this time and time again,” says Vlok, adding that holiday towns are often rife with opportunists who pry on families with large, luxury vehicles.

Vlok says when it comes to travelling with boats or pleasure crafts like a jet skis, watercraft insurance is under a separate, specialist policy. “Pleasurecraft owners need to ensure that they have comprehensive cover in place whether it’s on the water or not,” says Vlok.

She explains that accidents often happen when holidaymakers have someone drive into the back of them while the boat is being towed, or even when it is stationary. It is important to ensure that you have cover for both the towing vehicle, the trailer and the pleasurecraft in place.

And, if you are planning to enjoy many of the wonderful weekend events on offer – like winelands picnics or summer concerts – remember to book a chauffeur or drive assist service long in advance.

“Some insurers do offer this service for up to a few trips free per year. However, to avoid disappointment, remember to book this service at least two days in advance, especially before events like New Year’s Eve, which is typically extremely busy.

“And if you do all of these things, remain vigilant, and ensure your home security and alarms are in good working order, then all you need to do is have a wonderful and relaxing break,” concludes Vlok.