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The shift in behavior is one area of opportunity for an insurance industry that has been hammered by the crisis, and is a rare area where they can develop new products.

However it also leaves the sector, which already faces huge and varying claims from businesses and households hit by the pandemic, on the hook for bumper payouts should a new wave of infections force new travel restrictions or create alarm.

The “cancel for any reason” cover includes travelers who pull out due to the fear of contacting the novel coronavirus, provided they cancel the trip within two days of departure.

For the wider tourism industry, more expensive insurance cover could suck up cash that travelers would otherwise spend abroad on hotels, restaurants, shopping and excursions.

In one simple search on Seven Corners, standard round trip cover for a $5,000, 15-day holiday from the United States to Italy cost $171 per head for a standard policy but $240 for the comprehensive cover, adding up to several hundred dollars when applied to families and other groups.

“The cancel for any reason policy was an option before, but it is more expensive, which is probably why it wasn’t popular,” Squaremouth spokeswoman Kasara Barto said.