The Ins and Outs of Selling Travel Insurance

by Daniel McCarthy
The Ins and Outs of Selling Travel Insurance

The panel speaking at Travel MarketPlace. Photo: Dan Galbraith/Details Group

Travel insurance is a high-ticket item for travel agents, and not enough of them are taking full advantage of its impact on their bottom line, according to industry experts speaking at this year’s Travel MarketPlace Conference in Vancouver.

In a panel moderated by Travel Market Report’s Richard D’Ambrosio, travel insurance professionals from some of the largest insurance companies in North America spoke about what it takes to make “the kind of sale that makes you the best dollars,” D’Ambrosio said.

Stop using 'insurance' and start using 'protection'
While the industry term for the program that provides security for a vacation investment is largely “insurance,” that’s not the best term to use when trying to market it to clients.

“Some of the best sellers I’m seeing now are doing a quality control check, saying I’ve seen your file and notice that you're leaving on your vacation soon and I see that you didn’t purchase travel ‘protection,'” said Allianz Business Development Manager Robert Cole.

For some travelers, the word “insurance” can be easily passed over and ignored — a term that the most successful agents have stayed away from by using the word “protection” instead. That change gives travelers a better, more tangible understanding of what exactly their purchase of insurance is doing — providing a protection for the money they’ve invested in their vacation.

Just that small change has seen big results for some of the agents Allianz works with, Cole said.

Pitch once and then pitch again…and then again
“The consumer is starting to understand the need for travel insurance. Our job is to really educate the travel agents about how to get that across to the consumer,” said Cole. “How often do you market travel insurance to your customers? What I see is that in marketing that is done by the distribution channel, they really hammer the clients about purchasing and they have campaigns structured to get the consumer to buy travel insurance,” which is something agents need to start doing.

One agent that works with Daina Gasner, the product and support manager for Travel Masters, puts a disclaimer on every single booking to tell clients to look at the options — which she said has been effective.

“If you mention it every single time, you’re going to get sales,” Gasner said.

“The conversation is to protect that cost and expense, but life can happen no matter where you are. We are not talking about small dollars … there have been enough news articles here in British Columbia over the last 12 months, and that’s exactly the reason why,” said Adrian Bois, director of individual plans at Blue Cross Pacific.

“People are stuck in the hospital in the U.S., and bills are astronomical. And that can happen to anybody,” he added.

Embrace new challenges
One of the challenges that come with an increasingly crowded travel insurance market, is the new number of options that agents have to be educated about.

“There’s a lot of knowledge of the product itself … but they don’t necessarily see themselves as sales people. There’s a challenge as far as what clients make of the expectation of travel insurance, and the reality of it,” said Gasner.

All panelists agreed that agents need to be engaged and really understand the options and what’s in it for their clients.

“It’s constantly trying to translate the difficult nature of insurance into a layperson's understanding. That’s the challenge for everybody,” even the insurance companies — and it’s one that the industry and its partners are going to have to manage going forward. 

Take advantage of the change in snowbirds
It was also noted during the insurance session at the conference that, for a while, snowbirds from Canada and the U.S. would head to warmer locals like Florida, Arizona, and the Caribbean to spend their winter months away from the cold. But that’s changing, according to Ryan Beaulieu, vice president of Travel Guardian and AwayCare.

“They are not going six months to Florida anymore. They are going to Europe, they are going to Australia, and it does change our market a little bit more,” he said.

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