Canadian hospitality businesses, already reeling from the downturn sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, are facing yet another existential threat as insurance companies spike premiums or exit the space, citing losses and the sector’s risks.
Hospitality businesses, particularly those needing coverage for accidents caused by alcohol-impaired clients, were already seen as higher risk, said Karen Ritchie, vice president at Baird MacGregor Insurance Brokers and president of the Toronto Insurance Council. The coronavirus exacerbated that.
“It’s a perfect storm,” she said.
Many hospitality companies were already operating on razor-thin margins before pandemic-driven lockdowns. An inability to access affordable insurance could spell the end for them, given they are barely managing to hang on amid distancing restrictions.
While these businesses carry the same risks as elsewhere, the Canadian hospitality industry has faced a bigger hit due to a much smaller insurance market dominated by Lloyd’s syndicates, Ritchie said. Far more domestic insurers cover the space in countries like the United States, spreading out risk, she said.
Insurers, like other businesses, need profits, said Pete Karageorgos, director of consumer and industry relations at the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
And there is still capacity and affordable coverage available for businesses that can show measures to minimise risks, he added.
Despite limited ability to operate, “many bars and restaurants here still had contractual obligations and real risk that needed to be insured and insurance had to be maintained,” said Andrew Clark, chief executive of mortgage broker ALIGNED Insurance.
“The unfortunate reality is that the insurance companies aren’t willing to insure some businesses right now and they don’t really have many other options than to close,” Clark said.