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Reader question: Do travel insurance companies cover heatwaves in Spain?

The Local Spain
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Reader question: Do travel insurance companies cover heatwaves in Spain?
Children use an umbrella as they look at the Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona. Photo/Pau BARRENA/AFP.

The increasingly severe temperatures have made many wonder about holidaying and travel insurance in Spain in the summer season.

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Spain has suffered four scorching summer heatwaves this year. Sea temperatures have hit record levels. Temperatures have regularly reached the mid-40s across the country throughout the last few months.

Spain, a country long known for its temperate climate and beaches, is now on the verge of becoming too hot for many people. In fact, some people are now wondering whether coming to Spain during the summer is actually such a good idea anymore.

READ ALSO: NASA warns Spain could soon reach 50C

In particular, they may be considering if travel insurance covers heatwaves. And with good reason.

Data from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), published in medical journal Nature Medicine, estimated that between May 30th and 4th September last year there were 61,672 deaths attributable to heat with a staggering 11,324 of them in Spain, the second highest number in the whole of Europe.

But are heatwaves covered by travel insurance in Spain? The answer is it depends on the type of insurance you've got, the circumstances, and the specifics of your policy.

Is there such a thing as heatwave insurance?

Travel insurance policies have long covered freak weather events like hurricanes and earthquakes, but what about heatwave insurance? Well, as temperatures seemingly soar year on year, heatwave insurance is increasingly becoming a thing.

In 2022, Japan’s two biggest insurers, Sompo Holdings and Sumitomo Life Insurance, started offering policies that cover medical expenses arising from heatstroke for as little as 72c a day, so heatwave insurance does exist now.

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What about insurance for Brits and Americans in Spain?

But what about insurance companies closer to home? Sensible Weather is a "climate risk technology company that aims to change the way people interact with the weather by making the unpredictable more predictable".

Put simply, this means that the company uses forecasts to give you a ‘weather guarantee’ for a fee that is refundable in the case of extreme weather, including heat waves.

It is offering its British, American and French customers the chance to get their money back on trips to southern Europe if it coincides with an extreme heatwave that impacts on their holiday plans.

Speaking to the i newspaper, Sensible Weather CEO Nick Cavanaugh explained that “We will soon be offering trip protection against extreme temperatures. We’ve found that travellers have different expectations for what’s ‘too hot’, depending on where and when they are going somewhere.”

“So, as we roll the product out, we will modify our offering until we find the ‘sweet spot’ for a given customer, location and time of year,” the CEO and former climate scientist added.

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What about more general travel insurance policies?

As the heatwave travel insurance is a burgeoning industry (according to numbers by Sumitomo Life, heatstroke insurance policy takeups went from 400 a day to 6,900 in June 2022) there's some confusion on whether standard pre-existing travel insurance policies cover heatwaves.

Unfortunately, until the industry grows and companies begin specialising in this sort of heatwave insurance, the short answer is: it depends.
Martyn James, a consumer rights expert, spoke to the BBC and said that it depends on your policy and whether or not you had already travelled.

READ ALSO: Where are the hottest places in Spain?

Most insurers would not refund if the customer decides not to travel due to a heatwave. Travel insurance policies do not cover a "disinclination to travel", James said, but those who had travelled, that is, were already on holiday, would be more likely pay out refunds if your health was negatively affected or you had to cut your holiday short through its "curtailment" policy clauses.

"As soon as official guidance says it is dangerous to travel, that is when the 'curtailment' clauses for refunds kick in," James added.

As this is a relatively new problem for the insurance industry, it's advisable to read the small print of your policy.

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What about if my airline, operator or hotel cancels my holiday due to a heatwave?

In this case, you will almost certainly be covered.

READ ALSO - Escape the heat: Eight places in Spain where it doesn't get too hot in summer 

Are tourists reconsidering travel during heatwaves?

The rise in temperatures in recent years seems to be having an impact on the tourism industry in Spain.

In Spain, tourism association Exceltur has reported a higher demand for coastal destinations in the north of the country and on the Spanish tourist islands, notably the Canary Islands, where summer temperatures tend to be more bearable than in southern Spain and Mediterranean coast, the two traditionally popular tourist destinations.

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