With travelers flocking to cities across the United States to view the eclipse, Travel Agent spoke with Bob Chambers, vice president of operations at Generali Global Assistance, on the top travel insurance issues agents and travelers should keep in mind during the event.
“One of the main reasons people in the U.S. buy travel insurance is for trip cancellation,” says Chambers. “So if you can’t go because you get sick, or a family member gets sick, on a cruise or any type of packaged tour, that’s where insurance would come in.”
The potential for foul weather this weekend also poses the risk of flight delays. “At this time of year the weather can be unpredictable, especially in areas where the eclipse will travel over,” says Chambers. “There could be a travel delay that comes up, which would be something that would cause travel insurance to kick in.”
At the same time, the unique nature of the event poses some special risks that travel insurance can cover. “If you break your ankle your first day at your destination, it’s an additional expense to return home,” Chambers says. “Most policies also have insurance for medical expenses.”
Medical coverage can come in two forms: primary and secondary. Secondary insurance requires travelers to file claims with their primary medical insurer first, and then kicks in what the primary insurance didn’t pay. Primary insurance does not require travelers to file an additional claim first.
One big safety tip to note: viewing the eclipse safely requires specially designed glasses, according to NASA’s official website on the subject. Looking directly at the eclipse without the proper protection, even through sunglasses, can cause permanent eye damage.
“We can’t prevent people from doing things they shouldn’t, but if that happens it would be treated like any other injury,” says Chambers. “If you’re injured while you’re traveling, policies usually have some sort of 24 hour emergency assistance. You can get referrals to local doctors, and if it’s a serious injury you can get assistance returning home.”
Since many of the prime eclipse-viewing spots involve campsites and outdoor festivals, travelers can be at risk of illness or injury. “It could be something as simple as a stomach bug or norovirus if you get a bunch of people in a confined area,” Chambers says. “Also, if you’re out camping or at a festival, there is always the possibility of twisting your ankle, getting exposed to poison ivy – there is a whole host of things that could fall into that category.”
What can travel agents do? Chambers says that the most successful agents balance positivity and assertiveness when talking about travel insurance.
“They want to sell the good times, but they also have to be realistic and make sure clients understand the risks inherent in travel, and that travel insurance is the best way to deal with those risks,” Chambers says.