Why let your dream destination shoulder the burden of your medical fees? Source: Shutterstock

THE most important thing every traveler should bring along with them on their travels is the passport – that is a given – but also, travel insurance.

Depending on which policy you decide to pick up, travel insurance covers canceled flights, lost luggage, as well as medical emergencies. It gives you the leverage to get compensated should an unforeseen circumstance befalls you while you are thousands of miles away from home.

Unfortunately, even in this day and age, travel insurance is still one of the most overlooked must-haves because travelers are under the impression that there is little risk of them falling sick on a vacation or that the airline will properly compensate their lost luggage.

Or, they just want to cut back on “unnecessary travel expenditures”. And that is probably not the best way to go about it.

Recently, Japan rolled out a campaign urging travelers to pick up travel insurance as hospitals across the country have been complaining of a surge in unpaid medical bills. One hospital has even racked up over JPY10 million (US$92,000) in unpaid fees.

According to a government survey, nearly 30 percent of all tourists arrive without travel insurance at all. And that is a staggering number for Japan, one of Asia’s top 10 countries in terms of international tourist arrivals in 2017.

In 2017, the country attracted a record of 28.68 million tourists.

In an effort to nudge travelers toward buying insurance, its government agencies are placing flyers at tourist information centers in airports and hotels, and distributing cards listing the most expensive hospital treatments.

“Have you remembered to book your peace of mind?” a flyer printed in English reads at a tourist information center at Narita International Airport, Japan’s main international gateway which serves the Greater Tokyo Area of Japan.

Created by the Japan Tourism Agency  (JTO), the flyer is also available in Chinese, Korean, and Thai, and can be found at airports nationwide. The agency aims to educate travelers on how they can quickly and easily obtain insurance even after arrival.

Okinawa, a Japanese prefecture comprising more than 150 islands in the East China Sea and immensely popular for its tropical climate, sprawling beaches, and coral reefs, has also been ramping up efforts to distribute cards and stick up posters that promote travel insurance.

The cards list examples of the potential fees uninsured travelers can incur for medical treatment in Japan, such as “JPY700,000 for heatstroke” and “JPY3 million for a broken bone.”

Japan is not the first Asian country to encourage travelers to purchase travel insurance.

In June 2017, Thailand’s tourism officials submitted proposals to make travel insurance compulsory after an estimated TBH3,000,000,000 (US$9.2 million) in unpaid hospital bills were racked up by foreign visitors.

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