Berkshire Hathaway Upgrades Travel Insurance Products

by Richard D’Ambrosio

Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection (BHTP) has combined its automatic claim filing and payment features with its most comprehensive travel coverage, making its offerings one of the most robust in the industry.
 
Designed to dramatically reduce or eliminate claim filing and processing, all new BHTP ExactCare products now include expedited claims reimbursement via BHTP Burst – including direct e-payments to a PayPal account, or payment via debit card into a specified account.
 
The company calls the new plans ExactCare Value and ExactCare Extra, and also has made enhancements to its existing ExactCare product. The new ExactCare Extra plan also includes real-time flight tracking, a popular feature first introduced in 2014 with BHTP’s AirCare product.
 
“Travel agents now have something different to offer their clients – something that includes what we’re calling ‘no receipts needed’ fixed benefits,” said Dean Sivley, BHTP president.
 
According to the American Society of Travel Agents’ recently released national consumer study, 36% of Americans worry about flight delays, 34% fear getting sick on a trip, and 25% fear losing their luggage. But BHTP research shows that only 25-28% of consumers eligible for travel insurance buy it, Sivley said. The enhancements to BHTP’s plans are designed to convince more consumers to do so.
 
In an interview during a Manhattan media tour, Sivley labeled the new suite of plans “good, better and different. Our top-tier offering is ‘different’ in that it not only provides the highest coverage limits from BHTP, it also integrates our innovative fixed benefits, making it the broadest travel insurance option in the U.S.”
 
Sivley believes selling the new products will show consumers how agents offer higher value by recommending BHTP products.
 
Agents selling this product have the biggest spectrum possible of options, from lowest costs, to higher value.
 
Sivley also discussed the general state of the travel insurance industry, and described his view of how BHTP, a relative new entrant, is doing. “We’ve had a good start to the year. We’re seeing better growth,” he said. “Our number of accounts is higher. People are traveling.”
 
Part of the company’s robust sales are a result of the most recent spate of terrorist events. “Historically, whenever there is an event, the next two to three months we experience a higher penetration of sales. But it always tends to go back to the norm after that period. We think part of the growth in travel insurance sales recently is that travel is higher. We’re seeing growth in the frequency of trips by people looking to buy travel insurance.”
 
Travel agents have been hearing about the new offerings for about a month, Sivley said. Training on the new products started last week, and BHTP is offering online training materials and tutorials. “It’s a busy time for our sales team,” he said.
 
Looking to the future, Sivley said BHTP is looking at creating more customized insurance plans for tour operators with niche travel products. “For example, we may let an adventure tour package company add a number of riders with insurance coverage relevant to their customers,” he said.
 
BHTP might also begin offering insurance for event tickets, another new avenue for sales that agents are increasingly taking advantage of recently. Thousands of travelers failed to receive the food, lodging and recreation they paid $4,000 for at the FYRE music festival in the Bahamas earlier this year.
 
“We’ve tried to make our state filings as modular as possible, so we could make it easier to add new innovative coverage,” he said.
Sivley also is certain BHTP will be offering travel insurance in Canada before the end of the year.
 
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“Millennials have a different mindset than other demographics. It’s important that travel agents get into the conversation and promote the value they bring to the travel experience.” - Dan Durazo, Allianz Global Assistance

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