The recent Kenya elections have led to huge fallout in the country and beyond. When it was announced that President Mwai Kibaki had won the election by just 230,000 votes (out of 10,000,000 constituents) widespread political fury spread across the country – and violence broke out. Subsequently, all travel to the country was advised against, and a lot of people needed to claim on their global travel insurance, which was confusing given the unusual circumstances. I shall get to that later, but first a little background to the events surrounding the Kenya election.
So far there have been 600 deaths and some 250,000 people (more than the alleged 'majority' of Kibaki) fleeing their homes. The reason for this is the continued allegations of vote rigging, and the evidence for it has really begun to pile up, with plenty of strong claims emerging, including the head of the Kenya election commission admitting that one constituency had the surprising and unlikely turn out of 115%! Elsewhere, results were announced differently nationally to their announcement locally, and the results were delayed for 24 hours at a time when Kibaki's Kenya election rival, Raila Odinga, was leading in the polls. It's no surprise that suspicion was rife, and equally unsurprising that the suspicion has led to unrest, which has broken out into the violence that has since engulfed the nation.
One area this has affected the most is Kenya's previously buzzing tourism industry, and is one that is easily the country's biggest source of foreign income, totalling an estimated £ 500,000,000 per year. At the start of a year, Kenya could generally expect to be welcoming hundreds of tourists a day – the recent fall out reduced the numbers down to a brave few who had decided to ignore the inevitable warnings from the foreign office about travelling to the country, which was then placed in the 'civil unrest' list of places not to visit. Subsequently, the Federation of Tour Operators cancelled all holidays to Kenya, and a lot of people previously booked to visit the fascinating country were left with no option but to cancel, and hurriedly check the small print of their worldwide travel insurance policies!
Well, now the foreign office's advice has been lifted, and you can begin travelling to Kenya again (though the FCO still advises against travel to Western and Nyanza provinces, the Rift Valley province between Narok and Kitale, the central business district, Kibera, Mathere and Eastleigh areas of Nairobi, Uhura Park and Mombasa Town.) But what if something like this happens elsewhere? What steps should you take if you find sudden and unexpected political fallout affects a previously peaceful country you were due to travel to? While I can not speak for all global travel insurance providers, this is the line we took with Kenya, and I suspect a similar policy has been adopted by our rivals for their Kenya travel insurance policies:
- If you are travelling with a tour operator, they should provide you with a refund or an alternative holiday itinerary in a safer region.
- If you are travelling independently, then you should be able to easily obtain a refund from your airline, and possibly from your accommodation provider.
- If for some reason, either of these courses of action fail, and you have a policy with us, then we would offer reimbursement for unused travel and accommodation, under the terms of a Kenya travel insurance policy.
Obviously, I can not be certain this is the approach other worldwide travel insurance providers will be taking, but I'd imagine the vast majority will be offering something very similar to those unable to travel due to the fallout following Kenya's election, and this advice should apply in times of future disturbance throughout the world. If in any doubt, you should contact your provider as soon as possible and work out the exact terms of your travel insurance.