Although people made fewer trips abroad last year due to the recession, travel insurance firms paid out a total of £274 million covering emergency health claims from holidaymakers, figures have shown.
According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), travel insurers dealt with a record number of claims from people who fell ill or had an accident while they were on holiday outside the country in 2009.
The most common illnesses faced by people while they were abroad included stomach upsets, ear infections, allergies and heart problems.
The figure was the highest since 2000, when the ABI started keeping a record of travel insurance claims. The rise in claims was seen despite a 15% drop in the count of trips abroad people made last year.
In the past five years, the cost of claims for medical expenses had increased by 270% - with medical treatment currently accounting for 60% of all claims covered by travel insurance companies.
Payouts made by insurers during the year ranged from £49,000 for the cost of a coronary artery bypass and an emergency flight home for a man who became ill in the US, to £9,000 to cover the medical costs of a woman who suffered a severe allergic reaction while on holiday in Cyprus.
Nick Starling, the ABI's director of general insurance and health, said: "The often high costs of overseas medical treatment make travel insurance essential for anyone travelling abroad."
© Press Association 2010