Contingency plans for tourist accidents and incidents


Free Malaysia Today

From YS Chan

Yesterday morning, a tour bus travelling down from Genting Highlands overturned and landed on its side when negotiating a bend. On board were 21 people comprising the driver, two tourist guides and 18 Chinese nationals.

Sadly, two tourists died and the rest were injured, with 13 treated at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital and six at the Bentong Hospital.

If those killed or injured were covered by life, personal accident or travel insurance, they could claim and receive compensation from their insurance companies.

If they wish, they could also claim additional compensation in Malaysia but this is usually a long drawn-out process. They will have to file a civil suit in court against the parties at fault or legally liable to pay out compensation.

The families of the deceased and the injured will have to sue the driver and the company operating the tour bus. Their claims are to be based on loss of future income which varies according to individuals, the extent of injuries and suffering, as well as medical bills and travelling expenses.

But if, as in the case of yesterday’s accident, the tour bus driver did not have a driving licence for the vehicle, the insurance company would likely try to repudiate cover, rendering the tour operator without motor insurance and legal liability to cover the passengers.

It would be the same case if the driver’s licence was expired or if he was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Aside from not having a driving licence, the police found that the tour bus driver was also a serial offender having racked up 27 traffic summonses.

The driver has made a mockery of the entire system by evading the authorities and fooling the tour bus company which hired him.

All tour operators must have a chart for its buses which shows the expiry dates of vehicle licences, annual inspections, road tax and motor insurance, as well as competent driving licences (CDL) and PSV licences of its drivers.

Free travel insurance

The government should emulate Thailand that has left us trailing in tourist arrivals since 2015.

On Jan 1 this year, Thailand introduced free travel insurance coverage for all foreign tourists until Aug 31 and recently extended it to Dec 31.

Families of the deceased will receive one million baht (RM120,000) in compensation while those injured can claim up to 500,000 baht for medical expenses and 300,000 baht for serious debilitating injuries, such as the loss of limbs.

Unlike third-party and liability insurance where the party at fault must first be established and the compensation amount to be determined, this is not required for travel insurance, as the quantum is specified in the insurance policy and paid out without delay.

Many years ago, some injured Chinese tourists in Thailand were adamant that they be paid compensation immediately without wanting to wait through the legal process.

In Malaysia, such legal wrangling could take several years from the time the road accident occurred and when the compensation is awarded by the court.

The Thai authorities were proactive and went out of their way to pay out compensation which effectively quelled discontent among Chinese tourists at that time.

Likewise, the tourism, arts and culture ministry should have contingency plans for tourist accidents and incidents.

Malaysia is targeting 27.3 million tourist arrivals in 2024, 31.4 million in 2025 and 35.6 million in 2026. All these targets are achievable but could be derailed if contingency plans are not in place to handle accidents and incidents that may start as minor but blow up into something major. - FMT

YS Chan is a tourism industry consultant and an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of MMKtT.

Contingency plans for tourist accidents and incidents