A bitter backlash against leading South African insurance companies continues to grow in the country’s beleaguered tourism/conservation sector. A video is in circulation, made by a game lodge or game farm which, unsurprisingly, does not identify itself but which an independent source within the sector has confirmed is genuine, that attacks insurance companies by name for “destroying” the country’s tourism sector.
The video points out that in 2018 tourism contributed R425-billion to the South African economy, amounting to 8.6% of the country’s gross domestic product. The sector supported over a million jobs.
“[W]e felt secure knowing that we were insured for business interruption by some of the top insurers in South Africa,” states the video. “Little did we know that they would turn their backs on us when we needed them most and single-handedly contribute to the collapse of the beautiful industry we love. Our claims have been denied and our industry is falling apart.”
The insurance companies are claiming that the interruption of the tourism business is owing to the government-imposed national lockdown and not the result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The video charges that many companies in the tourism/conservation sector submitted insurance claims before the lockdown was imposed, but that these were also denied.
The previously mentioned independent source confirmed that most, if not all, businesses in at least the conservation sector had paid for pandemic insurance. However, insurance companies were refusing to pay out their claims. The insurers, it is asserted, are interpreting policy small print in ways to enable them to avoid having to pay out.
This is not the first protest made from within the tourism/conservation sector against the behaviour of insurance companies during the current pandemic. On June 26, the family-owned Cathedral Peak Hotel stated in a Facebook post that its insurer, which had been the beneficiary of the Hotel’s business since 2005, was still refusing to honour a claim lodged by the hotel in March. The insurer was claiming that the hotel’s loss of business was caused by the lockdown, not the pandemic. But the hotel had lodged its claim five days before the lockdown came into force.
Earlier in June specialist company Insurance Claims Africa CEO Ryan Woolley told Moneyweb that it was already then representing more than 400 small and medium-sized businesses, including lodge owners, regarding claims against insurance groups. It was also discussing the matter with the Financial Sector Conduct Authority. “Insurers claim that government regulations in respect of lockdown are the cause of the loss – not Covid-19. This, however, doesn’t make any sense as the insurers chose to insure a notifiable disease which would have contemplated government intervention and restrictions/quarantine,” he pointed out. “It is clear that without Covid-19 there would be no lockdown.”
“We are being destroyed by the very companies that promised to protect us,” is the bitter comment in the video.