The role of travel advisors has certainly changed over the years. Today’s travel advisors take on the whole of their clients’ trip-planning needs, from air to resorts to immersion experiences to insurance, and everything in between. The insurance segment of travel is one that savvy agents are increasingly making sure to include in the valuable products and services they offer their clients. While delivering the best protection to their customers, advisors also benefit from the increased revenue sourced by selling travel insurance.
We talked to several travel advisors and identified seven important tips that can help advisors be more successful in selling travel insurance. Consider trying any or all of them out for size.
1. Always offer travel insurance to every client for every trip.
Some clients will say, “Oh, I’m definitely going on this trip. I don’t need travel insurance.” But, don’t stop there. Because, no one knows what might happen between now and then.
“We train our agents to not close a sale or take a credit card until they bring up the option of travel insurance. [Offering travel insurance is] included in every transaction,” said Geoffrey Cox, VP of sales at KHM Travel (a host agency based in Brunswick, Ohio, with 5,000 independent contractors around the country). “We always sell it twice. We bring it up, and if they don’t want it, we explain why it’s important. We might even give them some examples of travel nightmares that happened when people didn’t get travel insurance.”
Back in early September, Cox heard from an agent that customers were upset because they were supposed to leave for a trip in Mexico, but they couldn’t because of Hurricane Dorian. The resort was open, but their flight to Florida was canceled. They said, “Well, we can’t fly there.” As Cox said, “If they had travel insurance, they would’ve been fine. Now, we have to go back to the hotel and negotiate for them.”
2. Explain that U.S. health plans probably won’t cover them overseas.
Let your clients know that, if they get seriously sick or injured while visiting another country, their U.S. health plan probably won’t cover them. Share this information from the U.S. State Department: “Foreign medical facilities and providers require cash payment up front and do not accept U.S. insurance plans. Medicare does not provide coverage outside of the United States.” Then, let them know that, when they have travel insurance with emergency medical and dental benefits, it can pay for losses due to covered emergencies that occur during their trip.
3. Don’t base your recommendations just on cost.
Cox also says not to offer clients a travel insurance plan just because it’s the cheapest. Instead, explain why it’s better to “be willing to pay a little more for a better policy. Look carefully at what the policy offers, the amount of insurance they’ll get for the money. For a few more dollars, they can get a much better policy, usually through a third party.”
4. Offer an annual travel insurance plan when appropriate.
For clients who do a lot of small trips, it’s better to get annual coverage,” said Sue Doyle, a travel agent at Montecito Village Travel, in Santa Barbara, California. “They’ll pay less in the long run.”
5. Make sure you get clients to sign a waiver if they decline to buy travel insurance.
Kristin Bodin, owner of Acadiana Travel, in Lafayette, Louisiana, said: If a customer declines to buy travel insurance, always get them to sign a waiver saying that they declined it. You have to cover all the bases, and truly understand the trip policies and cancellation policies – and make it really clear to them. That would be my number one tip for other travel agents.”
6. Tell powerful stories that highlight the benefits of having travel insurance.
As an example, Marco Ruiz, a travel consultant at AAA Travel Monterey, tells this save-the-day story: “I had a family (mom, dad, and three kids) that traveled to Europe. Halfway through changing trains in Italy, in Milan from Lake Como, on the way to Venice, the mom suddenly got very sick (she was a cancer survivor). She passed out on the platform. No one was really keen to help her, because in Italy, if a person can’t sit up, by law, they have to wait for the paramedics. The paramedics finally came and took her to the hospital. They never made it to Venice, and they had planned to go to Ireland from there.
“I stepped in and talked to the insurance company. There was a hospital bill for three days and the family’s hotel stay. The Venice trip had to be canceled, which was non-refundable and over $5,000.
“In the end, the mom didn’t have a stroke. She just had vertigo from being anxious and excited. Their travel insurance paid for the time spent in Milan, covered Venice, and rearranged tickets to finish the rest of their trip.”
Not only did having travel insurance redeem the family’s vacation, but the experience also created a strong bond between Ruiz and his clients. “She’s now my client for life. And, she happens to be an anchor for the local news, so lots of people come to me from her,” he said.
7. Check if the travel insurance you’re selling also protects your commissions.
The main purpose of travel insurance is to protect your clients. But, you, as a travel agent, need protection, too. Most policies don’t cover travel agent commissions. As Ruiz said: “This is very important. I could be working very hard on a trip. It’s good if the client gets their money back. But I did a lot of work on the trip, and if it gets canceled, we have to give the commission back to the supplier.”
Doyle agrees that, “Commission protection is very important for the trade.”
FROM THE SPONSOR: Allianz Global Assistance is a leader in the travel insurance industry, protecting 45 million customers annually with innovative products and award-winning service. With 24/7/365 travel assistance and operation centers in over 30 countries, we can help travelers anytime, practically anywhere in the world. And we don’t outsource any part of our customer experience. We handle customer service, travel assistance, and claims in-house with one of the highest customer satisfaction ratings in the industry. When your clients purchase Allianz Travel Insurance, they not only receive benefits that can reimburse them if their trip is canceled or interrupted, they also get more confidence. And you can be confident knowing that if your clients need us, we’ll be here to help them - on the phone, online, on social media, and through our popular TravelSmartTM mobile app. We’re more than travel insurance, we’re travel protection. To learn more about the Allianz Advantage and becoming a partner, please visit www.inwithallianz.com.