Helicopter scam; Insurance companies threaten to end Nepal travel coverage

Fake helicopter rescue scam has led international insurance companies to boycott travelling to Nepal as Nepal Government has not been able to fully crackdown the issue.

Insurance companies on Friday threatened to end travel coverage to Nepal after the fake rescue scam and charging huge amount of money from the tourists by intentionally making them ill or sick during their journey to the country.

Last year an investigation led to the fake rescue scam issue as they found out helicopter companies, travel and trek operator, guides along with hospital and doctors were found involved in cashing out millions of dollars from insurance companies by creating fake emergency evacuation mostly from trekkers even for minor illness as well as by intentionally making trekkers ill by messing up with trekkers foods causing various illness to call up the emergency rescue via helicopters.

International insurance companies have questioned Nepal Government as they have yet to file charges against around 1 and half dozen such companies who have been accused of such fraud and stated that if the government is unable to arrest and charge such companies which are still stated of continuing their business, then they will opt for boycotting travelling to Nepal by cutting off coverage for Nepal starting from mid-February.

The boycott is expected to lead other insurance companies to do the same which is set to make devastating effect on country’s tourism sector as well as country’s reputation that will directly affect in country’s economy as well.

Qries

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Trekking companies in Nepal state safety concern as major concern and promotes to buy travel insurance as traveling to high altitude can come with great risk. However, the fact-finding panel formed by the government found out that there is an agent that coordinates with helicopter companies and hospitals to conduct evacuation and create fake medical statements trying to get a commission.

The probe committee discovered that over 1300 rescue flights had been conducted in the first five months of the year 2018 which cost more than US Dollars 6.5 million to insurers.

Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) has framed the ‘Tourist Search, Rescue, Medication and Monitoring Guidelines-2018’ to make necessary arrangement for effective implementation from Nepal government to mitigate the impact-induced from natural and other disasters likely to face by the tourists during trekking, water-adventure, mountaineering and other adventurous tourism activities, by making quick, easy, simple, well-managed, reliable, safe and economic to the search, rescue and medication as well as by making authentic agencies that manage such activities.

The ministry has made mandatory for every travel agency to get a permit for conducting a rescue operation. The participated tourists must be an insured person. The agency is responsible for operating rescue operations or any other alternative ways for finding lost or injured tourists.

The helicopter companies have to inform tourism department through police regarding the instruments used for rescue, rescue costs, healthcare institutes and tourist information. During the rescue operation, the helicopter cannot carry any other passengers or equipment.

Helicopter companies conducting rescue operation should give details of total rescue flight within 15 days after completion of the tourist season. The hospitals must submit bills including information of treatment cost within 15 days after discharging the tourists. The agency must submit the insurance bill every month to the department after claiming for insurance.

The ministry had sent correspondence letter to the Office of the Prime Minister, Home Ministry, National Bank, Revenue Investigation Department, Health Ministry, and Metropolitan Police Committee.

However, still the companies have not been charged till date the ultimatum has been set to pressurize the government.

Officials from Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN) states that most of those involved in the case have reach to high level authorities so the government is unwilling to arrest those companies.

With the delay in investigation, the insurance companies which had covered around 1,00,000 tourist last year is set to go harsh against Nepal Government.

The issue is set to affect the government’s goal which is to bring around 2 million tourists to Nepal in the year 2020 AD as part of the Nepal tourism year-2020 project. In 2018, around 1.1 million tourists visited Nepal among which most of them being related to remote trekking and high altitude trekking.

Reference to the “New York Times”

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