Travel Insurance - Getting to ‘Yes’



When clients decline travel insurance, sometimes putting anecdotal human interest stories in play might, at least, get them to think a bit more about their decision. Agents know there are literally hundreds of circumstances that could cause a client to cancel a trip, return home early or head to a hospital.

Try a few of these when clients say “no,” because of cost or other factors. Or, draw upon ones from your own anecdotal archives. Not everyone will change their mind and say “yes,” but some might.

Canceling the Trip You Said “I’ll Never Cancel”: “When we book a trip to a far-off place, we feel an excitement that you can only experience through travel,” says Alan Josephs, vice president of marketing, Allianz Global Assistance USA. “We would never imagine that we might have to cancel that trip. But it happens.”  

He tells the tale of “Eric,” who had travel insurance and was diagnosed with a serious illness two days before he was set to fly to Shanghai, China. Eric called, said he was really stressed, and just wasn’t sure whether he should go on the trip or not. After talking to the insurer’s agents on the phone, he opted to cancel his trip to immediately begin medical treatment. Eric wrote to thank the agents who assisted him and said, according to Josephs, “They understood that this claim was not to be my main worry or concern at this time.” Life is more than money, trips and vacations.

The World Isn’t Always Safe: You’ve been planning the trip of a lifetime, but two weeks before the departure, a terrorist incident occurs in the city that you are planning to visit. Or, worse yet, you’re already in the country when the political situation deteriorates. Who will pay if you want to cancel your trip? Who will get you out of a scary situation?

TravelSafe Insurance is one company that offers political and natural disaster evacuation that will extricate your clients from anywhere in the world if local authorities advise tourists to leave an area, the State Department advises U.S. citizens or residents to leave an area or if the traveler is declared persona non-grata by the local government.

“No better example of this than the meltdown that occurred in Egypt a few years back,” says Carlos Cividanes, TravelSafe’s executive vice president of industry relations. “Our assistance provider not only helped clients in getting on the government flights [out of the country], they also chartered two flights—one to Cairo and another to Alexandria—to pull out our clients.”

Different Strokes for Different Folks Isn’t the Answer: People traveling together can’t always assume the other will go. “We just had a situation where two women were traveling together, but only one purchased travel insurance,” says Sheri Machat, senior vice president, MH Ross Travel Insurance Services.

Of course, Machat says, the one who didn’t have insurance later had to cancel for a medical problem. “She is out of pocket 100 percent of the cancellation penalty, but the one who did purchase insurance will be reimbursed for the single occupancy upgrade,” Machat notes. 

Medical Emergencies Don’t Know You’re On Vacation: Illnesses or injuries can happen anytime, even when you’re on the trip of a lifetime. “Our customer Scott W. was enjoying a wonderful intergenerational cruise in the Bahamas with his children and his parents, when his father became extremely ill,” says Josephs. The cruise ship wasn’t equipped to deal with Scott’s father’s medical emergency.

The entire family was disembarked in Nassau. The father was rushed to the hospital and spent four days in the intensive care unit (ICU). Scott called the insurer assistance team from the hospital, asking for help.

“We immediately contacted the hospital to check on his father’s condition and provide the hospital with a payment guarantee so that Scott would not have to pay for his father’s care out of his own pocket,” notes Josephs.

Scott’s father was released at 10 a.m. on a Saturday and by 2 p.m. he was back on a commercial flight headed for Orlando, with all travel arrangements made by the insurer’s assistance team.

Many medical policies won’t cover overseas costs. Four days in the ICU could be a whole year’s salary. “Most clients have no clue what their medical coverage is once they leave the United States,” stresses Cividanes. “Clients rarely are aware that the minute they hit the plank to board a cruise ship in an American port they are no longer covered by Medicare, because almost all are foreign-flagged.” 

Many countries’ medical facilities demand payment in advance. From Cividanes’ first-hand experience: “A perfect example of people not knowing their medical coverage is a neighbor of mine who approached me because, when he called his major medical provider and asked if he was covered if hospitalized in Mexico, he was told “Yes,” but he had a $20,000 deductible.”

If clients say “no” to buying insurance, Machat suggests agents have a waiver signed or, at the very least, confirm to the passenger in an e-mail that they opted not to purchase the insurance. That’s the agent’s protection when, even after everything you do, they still say “no.”