Japanese insurers deal with uninsured tourists

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Foreign tourists look at a guide book and a map at Sensoji temple at Tokyo’s Asakusa district. YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP

NEW insurance products are being developed in Japan to meet the needs of domestic firms that offer services to foreign visitors or hospitals that treat foreigners for injury or illness. These products are emerging in response to the rise in visitors who come to Japan without insurance.

Competition in the insurance industry is expected to intensify ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, when large numbers are set to visit Japan.


According to a survey conducted in March by the Tourism Agency, 30 per cent of visitors to Japan did not take out travel insurance, while 20 per cent got by with insurance such as that connected to their credit card.

Twenty per cent of hospitals that treated foreign visitors said there were cases in which they failed to pay their medical bills.

In response, Aioi Nissay Dowa Insurance Co late last month launched an insurance product for medical institutions that covers medical expenses that foreigners do not pay. A typical plan covering both hospitalisation and outpatient treatment charges a fee of 4,790 yen ($43) per patient and covers up to 10 million yen.

“Unpaid bills are an urgent problem facing the medical industry. This will help out,” said a sales manager at Japan Hospital Cooperative Inc who helped develop the insurance product.

Meanwhile, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co in January released an insurance product for guide-interpreters that covers various types of problems that may arise between them and foreign visitors.

The insurance reimburses guides who, for example, must refund visitors’ tickets to a show after leading them in the wrong direction, or must compensate a visitor who has an allergic reaction to a particular food. A plan with an annual premium of 2,800 yen will cover a maximum of one million yen per accident.


Advice based on experience

Several insurance products are also available for private guest houses. Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance Inc’s service targets owners of minpaku private lodgings and provides redress of up to 100 million yen.

The insurance premium varies depending on the number of days per year that the minpaku operates. For example, insurance for minpaku that operate 120 business days per year costs 3,770 yen per room.

Insurance companies are also offering services besides insurance. For example, Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co offers advice to rental car agencies aimed at preventing traffic accidents by foreign visitors.

The company draws on its experience dealing with accidents involving foreign visitors to offer informed advice on preventative measures.

However, the most effective means for foreign visitors to avoid trouble in Japan is to be insured. In cooperation with the Japanese government, Tokio Marine and Sompo Japan are distributing flyers in Chinese and English at tourist information centres and airports to encourage people to take out insurance. THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN (JAPAN)/ANN