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Bangladesh Travel Advice and Warnings: Nationwide Blockade Of Roads, Rail And Waterways 30 Nov 3 - Dec Protest At Government Policy

The Opposition 18-Party Alliance led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party has announced a nationwide blockade of roads, rail and waterways starting from 6am on Saturday 30 November and ending on Tuesday 3 December at 6am in protest at government policy. Reports suggest there were at least twenty deaths connected with a similar blockade between Tuesday 26 November and Friday 29 November.

Up to 75,000 British nationals visit Bangladesh every year. Most visits are trouble free. Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel to Bangladesh.


Alliance Group Launch Operations in Thailand

With Asia Pacific being a driver for the global economy, many western companies have allocated considerable focus and investment towards expansion in this region.

The potential to tap new markets and supplement sales at home, Asia has proven itself to provide companies with the opportunity to grow. Alliance Group is the latest to take an aggressive approach to expansion throughout the Asia Pacific region having already launched operations in Hong Kong, China and Indonesia since 2009 and has now announced the launch of Alliance Group in Thailand.

The insurance and financial services company's venture into Thailand began this month with the introduction of their insurance aggregator, the World's first international insurance comparison website and Alliance Group's flagship personal insurance company.

Dan Smith, Director of Alliance International said: "Thailand is seen as a strategic focus for Alliance globally and is expected to contribute significantly to our expansion plans."

Alliance has been no stranger to expansion over recent years having reported growth rates in excess of 150% year on year with much of this being gained through the success of NowCompare.

Dan Smith continued to say: "we are pleased with the progress we have made in the region and will be announcing further expansion plans over the coming year."


Aetna Names Tim Cocchi As Country Manager For Hong Kong Operations

Aetna (NYSE: AET), a leading global diversified health care solutions company, has named Tim Cocchi, 52, as country manager for its business operations in Hong Kong.

The appointment is effective immediately. In this new position, Cocchi will be responsible for sales and account management for Aetna’s growing business in Hong Kong and Macau and general management guidance for the company’s Hong Kong office.

“We’re pleased that Tim will be leading our dynamic team in Hong Kong, which is an important growth area for Aetna,” said Larry Hartshorn, Aetna International’s interim general manager, Greater China. “With his deep industry knowledge and years of experience in countries around the world, Tim will help us further expand our role as a major provider of individual and group health care benefits plans for expatriates and local nationals.”

Cocchi brings to Aetna more than 30 years’ experience in the employee benefits and insurance industries, both in the United States and internationally. He began his overseas career in Dubai as AIG’s regional head for group medical and managed care business in the Middle East. He later held similar regional roles stationed in Paris, Tokyo and Athens, where he continued to lead profitable growth in AIG’s Accident & Health lines of business. Most recently, Cocchi worked for AIA in a regional role based in Hong Kong. Cocchi received an M.B.A. from the University of Connecticut and a B.A. in business administration from Western New England College.

Aetna has maintained offices in Hong Kong since 2007 and employs 48 people there. Through a strategic alliance announced earlier this year, Aetna’s medical insurance policies in Hong Kong are underwritten by Starr International, a leading insurance firm licensed by the Hong Kong Insurance Authority.


Travel Advice Israel And The Occupied Palestinian Territories

Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to the Sheba’a Farms and Ghajjar along the border with Lebanon (the ‘Blue Line’). The FCO advise against all travel to Gaza.

There remains a risk of rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel and Israeli air strikes on Gaza. You should take extra care in areas of Israel close to the border with Gaza. Don’t attempt to enter Gaza by sea, breaching the restrictions imposed by the Israeli navy.

The FCO advise against participating in flotillas or overland convoys to Gaza because of the risks involved.

The Rafah border with Egypt regularly closes with no warning and for long periods of time. At these times it may be impossible to enter or leave Gaza.

The ability of the FCO to provide consular assistance in Gaza is extremely limited.

If you’re in Gaza you should register with the British Information and Services Office (BISO) on arrival, review your security arrangements regularly and make sure you know what to do if you hear a warning siren.

Be extra vigilant and take great care when travelling anywhere in the West Bank, particularly in areas close to refugee camps, in and around Israeli settlements across the West Bank and in the cities of Jenin, Nablus and Hebron.

Demonstrations and other forms of civil unrest can occur at short notice and often turn violent.

Regional developments can have an impact on the local security situation. Monitor local media and avoid all protests. Stay alert in and around the Old City in Jerusalem, especially after Friday prayers and on religious holidays.

Isolated protests and demonstrations can occur both in the Old city and in East Jerusalem. Leave the area immediately if there is evidence of tension or unrest. Keep up to date with developments, be vigilant and avoid any protests or demonstrations.

On 22 August, 4 rockets were fired towards northern Israel from southern Lebanon. There were no reported injuries.

On 13 August a rocket was intercepted by an Iron Dome anti- missile battery over the southern city of Eilat. No injuries were reported.

Visa and other entry requirements are complex. Make sure you are aware of Israeli immigration policies before you travel.

There is a high threat from terrorism.


MAPFRE ASSISTANCE Publishes Travel Insurance Observatory

MAPFRE ASSISTANCE publishes Travel Insurance Observatory (TIO), a study based on the health implications of tourists with data obtained from their travel insurance policies sold in the UK.

The report notes that the most common diagnosis related to the fate of the trip during the period of follow-up, refers to gastrointestinal infections (in 51% of cases). The study was presented at the XX General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) held last August in Zambia - Zimbabwe. MAPFRE, through its Unit MAPFRE ASSISTANCE, participated in the event, as an affiliate member of this organization.

For the preparation of MAPFRE ASSISTANCE study, in collaboration with its subsidiary InsureandGo UK, analyzed the claims occurred in countries of destination for both tourists and business travelers, taking into account the frequency with which health problems occur, the most common medical diagnoses in these cases and the specific situation of each country.

It takes into account health-related aspects of tourists before the trip (health risks cancellations) during the course of it (where traveler gives direct assistance through call centers and health care providers associated with MAPFRE CARE also benefit from coverage linked to your mobile devices or gadgets in the event of accidental damage), or after the trip (reimbursements for medical expenses incurred by the insured). The report also highlights that North Africa represent 21 percent of medical claims, even when the overnight stays of British residents according to the ONS (Office for National Statistics) reach only 3 percent.

This analysis is carried out both by region and focus on the 20 countries (out of 130 analyzed) in which there has been a greater number of medical cases related to these destinations. Participation in the XX General Assembly of UNWTO Affiliate membership of this organization, MAPFRE ASSISTANCE about institutions and tourism authorities and helps position the company as a leader in the global tourism industry.

In addition, the continuity of the study allow MAPFRE ASSISTANCE TIO be the spokesperson on travel insurance at the WTO and in front of all media and audiences that follow the information issued by the agency of the United Nations. In the XX General Assembly of UNWTO tourism authorities attended more than 190 countries, among whom were Ministers, Secretaries General, and all the official structure of the World Tourism Organization of the United Nations, and other affiliated companies.

As stated by the Deputy Director General of MAPFRE ASSISTANCE, Gregory R. Santos: "MAPFRE have a specific purpose in regard to our participation in the WTO, and is contributing to the positive experience of tourists in their fate."


Manulife Financial Implements Travel Insurance Business Arrangements with RBC Insurance

Manulife Financial has implemented its previously announced travel insurance business arrangements with RBC Insurance Company of Canada ("RBC Insurance"). Under these arrangements, Manulife has agreed to reinsure the travel coverage sold by RBC Insurance through travel agencies. These arrangements include the transfer of sales and distribution support for the travel agency business from RBC Insurance to Manulife.

In addition, participating travel agencies will be offered the opportunity to renew their agency agreements with Manulife upon the expiration of their current contracts with RBC Insurance. RBC Insurance will continue to be the insurance provider for the travel agencies until the expiration of the current travel agency contracts.

"With the implementation of the transaction now complete, our focus is the continued delivery of outstanding service and sales support to those travel agents selling RBC Insurance's line of travel insurance," said Brian Gooding, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Affinity Markets, Manulife Financial.

"The travel agency channel is an important part of our growth strategy and we have a tremendous opportunity to develop strong partnerships and build on our leading market position."

This latest arrangement will complement Manulife Financial's current strategy to broaden its presence in the travel insurance market. In a 2009 transaction, Manulife assumed the business of PS Travel Insurance Brokers Inc.


Knowledge Gap Widens for US-Based International Business Travelers

While safety remains the highest priority for US-based business travelers, when travelling internationally these same business people feel the least prepared to deal with political unrest. These are some of the findings in the second annual Asterisk International Business Traveler Study published by Europ Assistance USA and their partner Drum Cussac. Europ Assistance USA and Drum Cussac polled five hundred US-based business people who had taken at least three trips internationally within the last twelve months.

The number one concern of those polled was safety - including personal security, terrorism, and radicals. 83% of travelers polled stated that safety and the ability to take care of their medical needs while travelling internationally were their highest priority. "The two years of data is very robust," said Guillaume Deybach, CEO Europ Assistance USA. "There's a significant knowledge gap between what business travelers think they know and what they actually know."

The Asterisk study found that the knowledge gap for business travelers continues down to a personal level. While fully half of those surveyed stated that they had required some level of medical care while traveling abroad, almost as many (44%) were unsure if their health insurance company provided them with the same benefits abroad as they receive at home.

Deybach said, "I am not sure what is worse for a business, asking an employee to take on an unnecessary risk or avoiding an opportunity entirely, out of fear. The right tools and intelligence will help reduce these risks, help open new markets, and enable better decision making."

Asterisk is an enterprise travel risk management service from Europ Assistance and Drum Cussac, two internationally renowned and highly trusted assistance and risk management providers. Other highlights from the second annual Asterisk International Business Traveler Study include:

  • 45% of respondents said their company does not offer a plan to assist travelers with travel-related emergencies or they do not know about it, with 80% indicating their company does not have a formal emergency or communication plan.
  • An overwhelming 90% of respondents felt unequipped to handle a natural disaster or political unrest/riots while traveling, while 82% felt unequipped to find a local doctor.
  • Travelers are increasingly concerned about the ability to use their communications devices, such as cellphones, smart phones, and computers - as these are vital links for their security as well as their business.

National Geographic Society Announces New Travel Group

National Geographic has formed a new Travel Group that consolidates all of the 125-year-old Society's travel assets, including National Geographic Traveler magazine, National Geographic Expeditions, photo workshops and seminars, travel books, maps, apps, digital travel content and travel community.

The new group is led by Lynn Cutter, executive vice president, National Geographic Travel. "National Geographic has built up vast travel assets over the years, from our compelling travel editorial content to our unique access to people and places around the world to our thriving National Geographic Expeditions business," says Lynn Cutter. "By bringing together our publishing, expeditions and digital teams, we believe National Geographic Travel can harness these extraordinary resources and extend our leadership in authentic, meaningful and engaging travel."

The group's efforts are resonating with travelers. Expeditions' sales have increased by 80 percent in the past two years, traffic to the website is up 30 percent in the past 12 months, and the social travel community has doubled in the last year. Proceeds from all travel programs and products support the Society's aim of increasing global understanding through exploration, education and scientific research.

At a time when many media companies are moving away from print products, National Geographic is reinvesting in National Geographic Traveler magazine — increasing trim size, using heavier paper stock and unveiling a bold redesign with the October issue that allows for richer photography and a cleaner reader experience. The enhanced product will feature new columns from celebrated voices like Andrew Evans, National Geographic Traveler's Digital Nomad; Chris Elliott, one of America's best-known consumer travel experts; and leading sustainability expert Costas Christ, who will write a new column, "Trending." The redesign extends to the digital iPad/tablet version.

Keith Bellows, editor-in-chief of National Geographic Traveler and senior vice president of National Geographic Travel, leads the editorial vision for the group, and notes that, "National Geographic is a brand that inspires us to reach beyond our front doors to explore the planet and everything on it. Traveler is for real travelers and has long been driven by great photography and storytelling and an emphasis on culture, experience and authenticity. These are the principles that drive all of National Geographic Travel."

The National Geographic Society has long been an innovative leader in the travel space, pioneering initiatives such as the prestigious 25-year-old Traveler photo contest; the Traveler Writers Series, one-on-one live interviews with the world's best travel writers; the Places of a Lifetime series of magazine issues, apps and coffee-table books; the Apple-design award-winning National Parks app; and the "Travelers of the Year" program, which recognizes those who travel with purpose and to make a difference in the lives of others. New hire Andy Coleman, vice president of digital travel, joined National Geographic Travel to shape strategy for creating a comprehensive travel experience for users.

The new digital team rebranded all travel social media under one name, NatGeoTravel, across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr. Among drivers of the digital and social growth are "Best of the World Weekly" destinations hand-picked by National Geographic Travel editors; daily "Travel 365" photos; tips from the field in the "Intelligent Travel" blogs; and programs like Digital Nomad, which has Andrew Evans traveling the globe and sharing stories in real-time through his Digital Nomad blog, Facebook and @WheresAndrew Twitter feed.

The nomad franchise continues to expand with the addition of Urban Insider Annie Fitzsimmons. Contributors such as Evans and Elliott will appear throughout National Geographic Travel properties. For example, Evans writes a column for the magazine, contributes daily posts and videos on his Digital Nomad blog, will take part in October's signature 125th Anniversary "125 Years of Exploration" private jet trip and wrote the introduction to the new book, "Four Seasons of Travel" (Oct. 15, 2013). Elliott, in addition to his column, is also the author of a new book, "How to be the World's Smartest Traveler" (March 4, 2014).

National Geographic Travel is the travel arm of the National Geographic Society, one of the world's largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations, founded in 1888. National Geographic Travel creates authentic, meaningful and engaging travel experiences through National Geographic Traveler magazine; National Geographic Expeditions; travel books; maps; apps; digital travel content; and travel photography programs. National Geographic Traveler (8 issues per year) is the world's most widely read travel magazine and has 17 international editions. It is available by subscription, on newsstands in the United States and Canada, and digitally for tablets.

National Geographic Expeditions, the travel program of the Society, offers a variety of unique travel experiences led by top experts to more than 60 destinations across all seven continents. Travel opportunities include family and student expeditions, active adventures, private jet trips and voyages on the six expedition ships in the National Geographic-Lindblad fleet, as well as photography workshops, expeditions and seminars. The National Geographic Travel digital group offers inspiring and authoritative digital content such as trip ideas, photo galleries, blogs and apps, including the award-winning National Parks app. National Geographic Travel Books bring readers curated travel advice, photography and insider tips.

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A.M. Best Affirms Ratings of TOWER Medical Insurance Limited

A.M. Best Asia-Pacific Limited has affirmed the financial strength rating of A- (Excellent) and issuer credit rating of “a-” of TOWER Medical Insurance Limited (TMI) (New Zealand). The outlook for both ratings is stable. TMI was sold as a wholly owned subsidiary to nib holdings limited (the nib group) in November 2012. The nib group is a health insurer established over 60 years ago and is the only listed health insurer on the Australian Stock Exchange.

Currently, the nib group provides health insurance to over one million Australian and New Zealand residents. The rating affirmations reflect TMI’s consistent underwriting results and good liquidity position, which indicates adequate margins of protection for unexpected claims and liquidity needs. The ratings also consider the nib group’s parental support in areas of strategic initiatives and risk management.

Offsetting these positive rating factors are the dividends paid by TMI over fiscal year 2013. Although TMI’s premiums continued to grow and generate positive earnings, the amount of dividends paid exceeded its net profits earned. This resulted in a decline in TMI’s risk-based capitalization, as measured by Best’s Capital Adequacy Ratio (BCAR).

An upgrading of TMI’s ratings is unlikely in the near term. Negative rating actions may occur if economic and/or industry factors lead to underwriting losses or there is a significant and continuous deterioration in the company’s risk-adjusted capitalization. The methodology used in determining these interactive ratings is Best’s Credit Rating Methodology, which provides a comprehensive explanation of A.M. Best’s rating process and contains the different rating criteria employed in the rating process.

Best’s Credit Rating Methodology can be found at Ratings are communicated to rated entities prior to publication, and unless stated otherwise, the ratings were not amended subsequent to that communication. A.M. Best Asia-Pacific Limited is a subsidiary of A.M. Best Company. A.M. Best Company is the world's oldest and most authoritative insurance rating and information source. For more information, visit


Aetna's Worldtraveler Boosts Benefits For Global Business Travelers

Companies seeking international health coverage for their employees traveling abroad on short-term assignments can enjoy greater peace of mind with Aetna’s (NYSE: AET) newly enhanced WorldTravelerSM global health insurance plans. Effective immediately for all new and existing WorldTravelerSM plans, Aetna has eliminated its annual maximum payout for prescription drugs.

Aetna also has lifted its annual medical maximum payout for employees covered by its Premier Plus plans. For all plans with a dependent care option, employees’ dependents are now covered through age 26, up from age 18. Additionally, as of April 1, Aetna has lowered employers’ minimum annual premium to $1,000 on new and renewed plans.

Available for companies in many parts of the world, WorldTravelerSM is stand-alone, short-term international health coverage for employees who travel overseas extensively – up to six months consecutively and nine months annually – but are not candidates for expatriate health coverage. WorldTravelerSM offers benefits rarely available with domestic health care plans or accident policies. Standard benefits include direct billing to Aetna by its global network of more than 70,000 hospitals, clinics and doctors outside the United States, 24/7 customer service, on-call nurses, and medical evacuation and repatriation services.

“We know that dealing with health-related issues can be stressful, especially when people are far from home,” said Eugene Marks, Aetna International’s general manager of the Americas Region. “That’s why we have enriched WorldTravelerSM. We want our customers to know they can count on us wherever in the world they might be.”

For employers, WorldTravelerSM offers an affordable way to provide international coverage for employees traveling on business. Premiums are based on a per diem cost and the number of projected travel days. Plan administration is easy too. All employees are automatically covered; no individual enrollment is required. WorldTravelerSM requires no deductible. The plans cover pre-existing conditions and dental injuries. Options include dependent coverage, business travel accident insurance and health care benefits during leisure travel in conjunction with business travel.

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