Extreme Travel Is Inspiring New Types of Insurance

Traditional travel insurance won’t swoop in with paramedics, even though it typically covers the cost of an emergency. Dan Richards, the chief executive of Global Rescue, told DealBook that he wanted to fill that gap when he founded the emergency travel management company in 2004. For a $360 annual fee, it provides members with evacuation services. Upgrades, including one that promises “military special operations veterans” will retrieve you from dangerous locations like war zones, can raise the fee to about $1,800. Similarly, Medjet, a medical evacuation service, sells annual memberships, and companies like AirMed International, SkyMed and others offer emergency extractions.

Travel insurance is going to space. With companies like Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic selling tickets for trips, the market for space tourism is expected to grow to about $3 billion by 2030, according to estimates from UBS. The space travel insurance market is still small, but Lloyd’s of London, which insures space businesses, began underwriting space travel insurance in 2021, and last year the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance said they would jointly develop space insurance offerings.

Taxpayers will end up footing the bill for some rescues. The cost of search and rescue typically falls on state and local agencies, Ms. Hastings said. About a half-dozen states have laws that allow agencies to charge a rescue recipient, though few do, and there is no charge to those rescued by the federal park services, for example. Last year, lawmakers from Hawaii and Utah introduced legislation to allocate federal funds to help states pay for search and rescue operations, a burden that the drafters said disproportionately fell on less populous places, but the bill failed to gain traction.

The search for the submersible this week most likely cost millions of dollars. The Coast Guard, which led the rescue effort, has jurisdiction over search and rescue in navigable waters in the United States and beyond. “But that’s just the definition of their mission,” Ms. Hastings argues. “We don’t encourage charging for search and rescue because we want people to seek help regardless of socioeconomic status.”

Mr. Richards said a client of Global Rescue had signed up for the Titan trip this week, but withdrew his deposit because of safety concerns. Even though his team would have worked with international rescuers if the customer had followed through with his plans, the company would not have had the required deep sea capabilities. There are some journeys where the risk can’t really be mitigated yet, he said, adding, “If there’s an emergency in space, no one will be able to necessarily reach people.” —Ephrat Livni

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