When it comes to pandemics there are big differences in US travel behaviours based on gender – women are more likely to take precautions; men take more risks but are more affected by growing infection rates

16 September, 2020

The latest findings from the State of Travel Insurance research survey from Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection (BHTP) has identified some key traveller behaviour changes based on gender from the current Covid-19 pandemic that continues to severely impact global travel. With four surveys now conducted so far this summer, results have shown major contrasts between how men and women view the risks of travelling - pandemic related and otherwise.

Stark differences in travel behaviours directly related to the pandemic show that women are much more likely than men to take precautions recommended by the US national public health institute The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as they travel. While close to 60% of women said they would wash their hands or use hand sanitiser more, as well as wear a mask or other protective gear, only 39% of men said they would do the same.

On the whole, the survey found men are more than twice as likely than women (48% men versus 20% women) to say they like to take risks when they travel. But interestingly, men were much more likely than women to say they would let news reports of disease outbreaks and violence in their chosen destination affect their plans to go there.

Women reported buying significantly less travel insurance than men in 2020 and are saying they will be less active than men in the 2021 travel-insurance market. When looking at respondents who said they bought travel insurance in 2020, 38% of women say they made their purchase because of fears of disease epidemics, compared to just 24% of men. The top reason women gave for buying travel insurance was to cover flight delays and cancellations, while men's top reason was because travel insurance saves time and money.

The survey, completed by Polymath Research + Marketing on Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection's behalf, also provided some general trends on changing traveller behaviours on the matter travel insurance. The sixth annual survey found 49% of travellers said they are going to buy travel insurance more frequently in 2021 than they did in 2020. This is the highest spike in intent to purchase in the survey's history and coincides with almost 70% of respondents saying the pandemic has changed the way they travel forever.

"The pandemic is going to continue to disrupt the travel industry well into 2021, so it seems only natural that traveller behaviours are changing and intent to buy travel insurance is spiking," says Carol Mueller, vice president of Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection.

The research uses independent national panels surveying consumers on future expectations in travel insurance and travel habits. This year, it has been conducted in stages over several months to track how the Covid-19 pandemic changes traveller attitudes over time.

Initial findings from the data received in the latest survey from Aug-2020 highlighted that even in the face of the pandemic, respondents still consider international terrorism to be their top threat to travel, followed by disease outbreaks and increased cost of travel.

For the first time in the survey's history, the highest number of respondents said if given USD5,000 they would spend it on travel, hinting that people may prioritise purchasing travel with their disposable income as the economy improves. On the contrary, it could also suggest that travel is again becoming a luxury that perhaps can no longer be funded directly through regular household income.

Travel insurance purchasers note that saving time and money is still the top reason for buying travel insurance followed by, and not surprisingly, fears of disease epidemics. An increasing number of airlines are introducing their own cover to safeguard travellers and using it as a tool to stimulate demand. Similarly, booking and ticket restrictions are being suspended at airlines and in hotels to enable passengers and guests to have the freedom to change bookings.