The State of Adventure Sport and Trekking Insurance in India
This blog is a part of our Trekking 101 series, powered by ULTIMATE TREKKER – the Outdoor Leadership Programme for pro trekkers.
So you have walked the talk and done your first few treks. Fallen in love with the mountains and can’t get enough of them. Sweated it out, felt the exhilaration and had your share of bruises. Having scared yourself silly on a particularly treacherous route, you probably googled ‘trekking insurance’ and found nothing worthwhile.
In the time of increased awareness around adventure sports in India and its affiliated areas of interest, it makes sense to delve into perhaps one of the hottest searches and an important aspect of trekking – ‘adventure sports and trekking insurance in India’.
4Play aims to create awareness about the best practices, specific to the Indian outdoors. And enable you to step out with confidence. By making accessible an ocean of empirical knowledge gathered by the Indian Bear Grylls – Pranav Rawat himself.
Pranav Rawat is a seasoned mountaineer and an ice-climber, with a decade long experience as a summiteer. Pranav is also an UIAA certified Himalayan Mountain Guide and Wilderness First Responder, which makes him an unparalleled expert on climbing and trekking in the Indian Himalayas.
Understandably trekking can be a dangerous activity. Scaling thousands of feet of rock, ice and moraine brings with it several risks. From simple slips resulting in ankle sprains to more complicated ones like Acute Mountain Sickness,HACE and HAPE (high altitude cerebral and pulmonaryoedema), trekkers and mountaineers may face nature’s uncalled for wrath. So is trekking travel insurance your way out? Yes and No.
A trekking insurance should theoretically cover you against death or injury when you plan a hiking trip to the mountains. It must necessarily include search and rescue because without that the trekking insurance is only against death. Why? Because very often conditions like a cracked bone, altitude sickness, stomach infection or simply getting lost in the mountains can become extremely debilitating and even fatal. Getting rescued therefore becomes critical.
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4Pay talked to athletes, dug for information and realized that adventure insurance sector is puny and impoverished. Although it was no surprise to learn about the nascence of the trekking adventure and travel insurance sector in India, Pranav informed us that it is not just unregulated but extremely underdeveloped. This plays spoilsport for those willing to take the obvious risks associated with adventure sports.
Unlike in Europe or in the USA, adventure travel insurance in India is relatively new and very narrow in its approach with very few available options. Our research showed Adventure Sports Cover 360 to be one of the only players in India. They offer reasonable cover and a fairly exhaustive coverage of adventure activities ranging from mountain and ice, to water sports. Adventure Sports Cover 360 also offer coverage of search and rescue including helicopter lift expenses in various categories. The promise of customizable options and 200 plus activities make it one of the only dedicated adventure insurance options available in the country 1.
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The Bajaj Allianz Adventure Sports add on policy is also an option but here we weren’t able to conclude if ‘Search’ is included in the cover policies as part of ‘Rescue’. Moreover it is mandatory to opt for the death and/or permanent total disability so that the sum insured under adventure sports benefit can be bought2.
Although travel insurance offerings are plenty, we could hardly find any adventure sports insurance beyond these. Therefore trekkers depend on external parties like local rescue groups, the Indian Air Force and Army for helicopter rescues/air ambulance and trekking partners including fellow trekkers, guides or trek leaders for search and rescue.Hence the policy is woefully inadequate.
There are several reasons for the lack of development of the Adventure sports travel category in the insurance sector.
One is the lack of regulation and bureaucratic lethargy in offering insurance for extreme and adventure activities (since they are poorly recognized, lack relative glamour and aren’t popular like cricket).
Secondly the percentage of individuals seeking to opt for such a specific insurance is still small, leading to a smaller market size. Few takers means fewer sellers resulting in the poor supply of service in the sector.
Moreover, the remoteness of locations, challenges in connectivity and reach makes the feasibility of search and rescue operations low. Lack of permissions for satellite phone usage (prohibited by the government of India) also makes locating the injured extremely difficult. And when traditional insurance companies see no financial viability of search and rescue being a part of the insurance package they are happy selling their standard, 40 year old ‘Jeevan Bimas.’ No country for adventure sports travel insurance then.
The crux of the matter then is that your safety is your responsibility. No degree of insurance can arrest the risk arising out of one’s own folly. Usage of proper gear, guidance of experienced guides and correct diagnosis of ailments are your best bets when pursuing adventure in India.
Do you know of any other adventure sports insurance cover in India or have had any experience in purchasing a similar insurance? Do tell us know in the comments section below.
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Author: Pranav Manocha
Pranav is a Nepal earthquake survivor with a flair for marketing. Beginning with a Quote T-Shirt business with a school friend after grade 12, he did his graduation in Literature from the University of Delhi. In his free time he loves reading Camus, trail riding and skinny dipping in rivulets around Manali.