What's New for Travel Insurance in 2016

Travel insurance can be an important survival tool for agents, both as an ancillary revenue-producing product and a means to protect your client’s investment. A customer whose trip was salvaged or who was compensated when things went wrong or whose loved one’s emergency medical needs were taken care of by having the right policy will likely remain loyal to the advisor who talked them into purchasing it.

Only one in five travelers buy travel insurance, according to MMGY Global’s 2015 Portrait of American Travelers, so there is clearly a lot of untapped potential on this front. Clients may be resistant, believing that their health insurance policy (including those offered by Medicare and Medicaid) covers international travel, but chances are it does not, or if it does it may not cover the cost of medical evacuation. You may need to make it personal, as Anna Yott of Dream Come True Vacations suggests: Cite real worst-case scenarios from your personal experience or those of other agents.

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And it’s not just about the travelers themselves. Point out to clients that insurance will get them home if something life-threatening happens to a member of their immediate family back home. This can seal the deal, says Cruise Planners franchise owner Jo-Ann Moss. “It scares them straight,” she says.

InsureMyTrip — which partners with AIG Travel Guard, Allianz, AXA Assistance USA, CSA Travel Protection, Medjet Assist, MH Ross, TravelSafe and more than a dozen other such companies — estimates that 80 percent of travel insurance consumers purchase a comprehensive policy. Such a policy provides a variety of benefits, including medical coverage, emergency travel services, baggage protection, and trip cancellation and interruption coverage.

The main benefit, however, according to Daniel Durazo, director of communications, USA, for Allianz Global Assistance, is that “it creates peace of mind for both the agent and the consumer. The agent has peace of mind knowing that before, during and after the vacation, their clients are protected.”

The best travel insurance customer, Durazo tells us, is the savvy traveler. “They made a significant investment on their trip and they know there are things that can ruin their plans. The savvy traveler will know, ‘Well I have kids, I have older relatives and we’re going out of the country, what if someone ends in the hospital in Mexico they will want me to pay up front?’ Travel insurance will cover those payments.”

While “savvy” doesn’t necessarily mean older, MMGY Global’s 2015 Portrait of American Travelers shows that far more Matures said they purchased travel in the past 12 months — and intend to do so during the next 12 month — than their younger counterparts. It’s worth noting, however, that Millennials were second in this regard, significantly ahead of Boomers and Xers.

Millennials are clearly a target audience for Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance. From claims sent via smartphone to claim payments that can be made directly into the consumer’s bank or PayPal accounts, the company’s technology-focused innovations are being used to attract a younger customer, says Dean Sivley, the company’s president.

“In 2013, when we were looking at the market and what we wanted to do, it was all geared around the fact that we wanted to do something totally different and it was actually aimed at or targeted at the Millennials,” Sivley tells us. It had to be cellphone-based and, they determined, it has to be “designed to work easily and that means the principal channel is a smartphone for how people are going to book or use it. And Millennials tend to be bit more comfortable with smartphones.”

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