Japan eyes online insurance for foreign travellers

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) - With the increase of foreign travellers arriving in Japan, the Japan Tourism Agency has asked an insurance company to develop a travel insurance for short-term visitors.

The Japan Tourism Agency and a private nonlife insurance company have jointly developed the first travel insurance for foreign visitors to Japan that allows them to subscribe through the Internet after arriving in the country.

The insurance will be on sale from February next year.

The insurance has been developed because, with the sharp increase of foreign tourists, an increasing number of foreigners who did not subscribe to travel insurance before arriving in Japan became sick or suffered injuries, causing problems when they were unable to pay for their treatment.

The total number of foreign travellers to Japan hit a record 13.4 million in 2014. Their number this year has already surpassed that, reaching 14.48 million as of the end of September.

A big increase in foreign tourists is expected as Japan will host the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics the following year. To prepare for this influx, the JTA asked nonlife insurer Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance Inc. to develop a new type of travel insurance.

Those who want to subscribe to the insurance will be able to apply via the Internet at airports, hotels or other places and by using their own smartphones or other devices.

The insurance premium varies depending on certain conditions, including how long a visitor will stay in Japan. For example, the premium will be set at about 3,000 yen (US$25) for a six-day stay, covering up to 10 million yen ($83,000) of medical treatment expenses.

In the past, for instance, a foreign traveller was hospitalised in Japan after being diagnosed with dengue fever and had to pay 400,000 yen to 500,000 yen ($3,300 to $4,100) for treatment, according to sources.

If sick or injured, the subscriber to the travel insurance informs a 24-hour call center working with Sompo Japan by using a special smartphone application. The staff member in charge will ask for information from the caller, such as symptoms and whereabouts, and then introduce one of the 800 medical institutions affiliated with the company.

Staff at the call center will speak English, Chinese and Korean and help patients communicate with doctors by providing a phone interpretation service.

According to a survey conducted by the JTA, about 30 percent of foreign travellers to Japan are uninsured, while 4 percent of the overall number of tourists suffered illness or injury during their stay in this country.


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