How you can prevent compensation claims

It is currently not compulsory for Greenlandic, as well as Danish tourist operators, to have professional indemnity insurance, which is probably the main reason why not all operators in Greenland have it. 

However, you could potentially face a compensation claim if one of your customers is injured or has their equipment damaged while on one of your trips. In this article, we review ways to prevent potential compensation claims.

Professional indemnity insurance

Tourist operators must have professional indemnity insurance in Iceland and other countries. Furthermore, anyone selling package holidays must have a special statutory bankruptcy guarantee that they take out through the Icelandic Tourist Board. Although this is not the case in Greenland, it is advisable to assess whether some form of security is needed against potential claims from tourists who suffer physical or material damage on organised tours where they believe it is the operator’s responsibility.

Kalaallit Insurance takes out professional indemnity insurance for Greenlandic tourist operators. The following product categories can be covered:

  • Tour, charter and equipment hire services. All charter and tour boats must be passenger approved. ATVs and snowmobiles must be registered and insured (Business Insurance) correctly, which Kalaallit Insurance can handle. The premium and the insured amount are determined based on a specific assessment. 
  • Tour guides (hiking, kayaking, town walks, etc.) can insure their products.
  • Glacier hiking products can be insured, despite inherent dangers.

Examples of products/product categories that cannot be insured through Kalaallit Insurance:

  • Paragliding, as it is considered too risky.
  • Injuries caused by sledge dogs, i.e. dog sledge trips and visits to sledge dogs.
  • It might be possible to insure products like heli-skiing, mountaineering, ski-touring, etc., but it depends on a specific assessment so call and check.

Gouda Insurance is currently the only insurance company that can insure dog sledge tour operators.

They say: “Our liability insurance covers flaws and deficiencies with a trip, including if there is an injury during a dog sledge trip caused by a flaw/deficiency. For example, if a guest falls off the sledge because they are not holding on or trying to get up during the trip, it is not the travel agent’s responsibility. However, if the sledge tips over or if a guest is hit by a sledge, it is the tour operator’s responsibility, and the insurance will cover it. 

The insurance also covers if the sledge trip cannot be completed (reimbursement of the part of the tour price that includes the trip) or if the guest arrives too late in Greenland and loses a day of travel (compensation to the guest of a day’s share of the tour price) and many other things arising from the Package Tour Act Liability to which the travel agent is, as you know, subject.”

The latter only applies if the tour operator has taken out package tour insurance with the Travel Guarantee Fund, which is relevant if you offer travel/experience packages and not just one type of experience.

Codan Greenland/Illit Insurance cannot currently offer product liability insurance to tourist stakeholders but is working to be able to offer the product in the near future. Therefore, the recommendation from Illit Insurance is to call them to see if it has been added to the product portfolio at that time.

Tryg Greenland does not offer professional indemnity insurance to tourist operators in Greenland.

Disclaimer

If you either do not want to take out product liability insurance or do not have the option to do so for your product, you should at least consider including appropriate disclaimers in your terms and conditions so that the tourist can assess whether they want to take on the inherent risks before making a purchase decision. 

A disclaimer does not preclude a customer from claiming compensation if they think the operator should be held liable for the claim, or if the operator has manifestly failed to meet its legal obligations in relation to safety and good business practice, but it does ensure that the potential customer has been made aware of any hazards and what the operator considers to be the customer’s own responsibility. Many unforeseen things can happen during a trip in the Greenlandic countryside that could subsequently be disputed as possible irresponsible behaviour on the operator’s part.

Australian social media influencer Sorelle Amore on a iceberg boat tour during the blue hour in the Ilulissat icegjord in Greenland. By Rebecca Gustafsson

The tourist’s own personal injury, travel or property insurance

Overall, it is difficult to foresee all the possible and impossible scenarios that can play out, as thousands of things can go wrong out in the countryside, and whether a customer/tourist would consider an injury to be the operator’s fault/responsibility. 

Most experienced adventure tourists will either have taken out their own travel insurance, which includes personal injury and damage to equipment, in which case the tourist’s own insurance may cover. However, the tourist will still be able to claim compensation regardless of their own coverage. This will probably only happen in the more extreme cases since a compensation case for an injury suffered in Greenland would normally have to be brought before a court in Greenland. 

Tick the box to accept the Terms and Conditions

It has become common in the sale of experiences, which the customer buys online, that the customer can only complete a purchase by ticking boxes to indicate that they have read, understood and accepted the product’s terms and conditions of purchase. It is good service to the customer, and the operator also knows that they can demonstrate the ‘contract’ that has now been signed with the customer regarding safety, provision of the product, etc. 

Safety brochures and briefings

If the product is instead purchased directly from the front desk/guide/skipper/steward(ess), etc., it is therefore highly recommended to have written material/brochures available to describe safety instructions, safety recommendations and disclaimers. If you do not hand out brochures for the tour, it is highly recommended to start the tour with a safety briefing, as well as a direct or indirect matching of expectations. Many first-time Greenland tourists can be unsure about safety, and a proper safety briefing creates more reassurance and clarifies what to expect, often ensuring the best possible satisfaction with the product.

Below is an example of how such a disclaimer might be worded:

Dear customer,

Your safety is our number one priority, so please read this short leaflet carefully before starting your trip. The boat is equipped with […description of the safety equipment], which is located [...description of location]. In case of [...description of one or more possible scenarios], please [...description of how each passenger should act].

Furthermore, please be aware that when [...description of specific weather phenomena or manoeuvres], there is an increased risk of [...description of various major or minor risk factors in relation to [… personal injury], and therefore we recommend that you move about on the vessel with appropriate caution. 

We point out that anyone who does not follow the above guidelines assumes personal responsibility for potential injuries and other inconveniences.

Summary

It is always good practice to have clear terms and conditions so that the tourist/customer’s experience of your service matches – or exceeds – the expectation set therein. Unforeseen things can happen due to external factors, and clear terms and conditions, possibly including disclaimers and/or opt-in tick boxes, could cover you against possible complaints or compensation claims.

However, professional indemnity insurance is the most effective protection against possible claims from tourists, and this is strongly recommended by several tour operators we have spoken to – especially when it comes to boat charters, as the Maritime Act otherwise allows for large claims.

There are real dangers with being out in the harsh countryside, and especially for first-time visitors, the climate, nature, weather and logistics can seem alien and create insecurity and uncertainty. Help them by being as clear as possible. Better to over-explain and create maximum peace of mind than to underestimate the tourists’ need for information! One of the most important components of quality service is timely and relevant information!

Article by Mads Lumholt

Senior Marketing Analyst, Visit Greenland