Christmas 2021 has been a “particularly challenging” business for Garey Bell, luxury travel consultant for Protravel International LLC in Westbury, New York. He has had many clients who travel and many multi-generational trips. The surge in COVID-19 cases has left many customers unable to travel. “Insurance coverage, even during high travel seasons, allows for justifiable refunds,” he says.
Margie Linau, owner of Wonderland Family Vacations, LLC, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has many stories of customers using purchased travel protection including her special need for it during a trip. “Personally, I had a hurricane and needed to rebook flights and pay for hotel accommodations before it was safe to leave,” she says. “My travel insurance covered my expenses and I was paid within two weeks of submitting the claim. Most simple claims offset more than the cost you pay for coverage.”
Travel consultants rarely book trips without bringing up the topic of travel insurance. With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and new variables continuing to emerge as well as other potential factors that could hinder flights, travelers want – and need – to protect their vacation dollars.
The most popular feature of travel insurance, according to an AAA Travel survey conducted in August 2021, is “the ability to cancel a trip and get a refund,” with 69 percent of travelers surveyed saying “this is the most important to them when considering travel insurance for an upcoming trip.” .
“One hundred percent of my travelers travel with insurance,” says Gretchen McKnight, luxury travel consultant for Perfect Honeymoons & Getaways Perfected in San Diego, California. They were invincible. We have over two years of great examples of why everyone needs travel insurance now. Always help your clients understand the importance of protecting their investment while on vacation.”
This perspective is shared by Jackie Marks, Executive Vice President, B2B Branding, for ALG Vacations. “Travel protection gives customers peace of mind knowing they are protected,” she says. And now? Travel protection purchases have skyrocketed during COVID. Today we continue to see a strong correlation with travel protection sales. Travel protection plans are more important than ever given all the uncertainties travelers face today due to COVID, weather-related delays and airline cancellations, for example. ”
Travel insurance sales increased “significantly” at Classic Vacations, according to Joel A. Abellado, Vice President, Product Development, Classic Vacations. “Travel insurance is an important part of the business, especially given the environment,” she says. “Every travel consultant we work with knows how important it is to sell this product to protect their customers.”
According to Jana Smith, owner of Main Street Travel, LLC in Hendersonville, Tennessee, her travel insurance bookings have increased “100-fold.” “We sell travel insurance with every booking,” she says. “We don’t require it, but when we include the risks, customers can make an easy decision about purchasing travel protection.”
As for Bell’s business, he says, “the majority of bookings today consist of some type of insurance coverage.” He adds, “Today’s traveler is more educated and aware that circumstances beyond their control can affect their travel plans at any time. Discussed early in the booking process, customers always ask ‘what if’.”
Bell cautions that when selling travel insurance, he says, “Don’t be afraid to offer it to your clients because you don’t understand the intricacies of a particular policy. Clients learn to embrace the value of the purchase, and it’s our job as advisors to protect their investment.”
Linau says counselors need to protect themselves, too. “Always deliver [travel insurance]and get a waiver if the traveler refuses to buy it.” “During COVID, we had clients telling us they had ordered travel insurance, but we had the paperwork to support that they had waived coverage.”
Smith also asks customers to sign waivers. “If your customers decline travel insurance, you need to ask them to sign a waiver saying that you offered them a policy, and make them realize that it is a purchase they can make for their trip, and that they will not be held liable by you for any problems that arise while they are traveling for their refusal to protect their trip.
What you need to know
Explains Kelly B. Sahner, chief commercial officer of Trip Mate, which provides customized travel protection plans to tour operators and other travel partners, basics most travel protection plans as offering “reimbursement for the cost of the trip itself. In addition to trip cancellation, plans provide trip interruption and delay. All of these advantages It compensates the traveler for the cost of his trip and the additional costs people pay out of pocket in the event that they are forced to cancel or interrupt their trip as well as in the event of their delay.”
Additionally, travel insurance can cover lost, delayed or broken luggage. Sahner adds that travel protections are also essential in the event of an unforeseen medical emergency, including emergency medical transportation and repatriation.
Other key parts of the travel insurance sales process are for travel advisors to know how the pre-existing clause works, when you have to purchase the plan before, are items that were not booked by the covered travel company, such as outside air or [the client’s] Private land arrangements,” says Sahner. When a misfortune occurs, and the customer must file a claim, Sahner adds that “it is important to know how to contact the administrator. Make sure you have their number or email address. Always keep your receipts and file official reports on behalf of [travel insurance companies] Need proof that something happened (like a police report if a bag was stolen while walking down the street).”
Choose the right plan
Marks stresses that not all travel protection plans are the same. “It’s important to compare the benefits and understand the dollar value limits,” she says. “Take the time to understand what you’re buying and the costs, and don’t make too many assumptions. Plans can look very similar at face value until you dig into the details.”
Marks adds that travel advisors should especially consider the benefits of cancellation coverage to ensure they are comfortable with what is being offered. “Cancellation for any reason” is the most important benefit, but make sure there aren’t too many restrictions around this and that you know what the terms of a refund are,” she says. “Next, you’ll want to weigh the benefits while traveling, especially those related to delays and baggage. See also to see if your medical coverage is primary or secondary. Both are good, but it’s good to understand so you know how to use it if needed.”
Travel consultants need to understand that travel protection plans may have additional benefits. ALG Vacations’ Travel Protection Plus plan, for example, offers a low deposit on scheduled bulk flights and price protection in the event the vacation price drops with them after purchase, plus cancellation and in-flight benefits, Marks says. “Our rewards features are especially appreciated as more customers book sooner than ever before,” she adds.
Bell stresses that advisors need to ask the insurance company questions to fully understand coverage. “Not only will you become educated, but you will be able to smoothly explain their offerings to your customers.”
Smith agrees. “Travel agents should contact travel insurance representatives and request training on the policies they intend to sell,” she says. “There’s actually a lot they can share with you to help you fully understand what you’re selling and how to talk to travelers about their purchase. It’s important to know what you can and can’t say when selling your insurance policy to potential travelers.”
Macknight recommends that customers “contact their insurance provider with their specific questions regarding them to ensure they are purchasing the right coverage for them.” She adds, “I’m a travel consultant, not an insurance agent. There are a lot of ‘what ifs’ a client might have, and I never want to promise coverage in any situation. These are the questions an insurance agent answers best.”
She continues, “You can explain the insurance requirements of the destination. You can explain the importance of the coverage. You can even make it a personal company policy to ask your clients to take it or sign a waiver if they refuse to do so. What we should never do is talk about the details of a policy beyond coverage amounts, and what till then ”
Lenau says buying from a reputable company is key. Apilado agrees: “Book a reputable insurance provider that provides good service and pays claims on time.”