Travelers Booking Shorter, Affordable Trips on Shorter Notice

July 13, 2009

InsureMyTrip Sales Data:

The online travel insurance aggregator InsureMyTrip.com announced results of its sales data analysis of consumer travelers showing a more cautious, cost-conscious market for 2009 vacations.  InsureMyTrip found the following results in examining its 1st Quarter 2009 sales data versus the same 1st Quarter of 2008.

  • Extended vacations of two to four weeks saw the largest decline at nearly 15%.
  • Trips costing more than $2,000 fell by 25%. Overall, average trip costs decreased 12%.
  • Travel insurance customers are now buying closer to scheduled departure. Insurance is now purchased 62 days before departure, a decrease of 11%.
  • Surveyed consumers said they were insuring 68% of trips lasting eight days or more, but only 30% of week-long trips and 18% of weekend trips. Insurance take-up rises dramatically with the length of the trip.

Jim Grace, the President and CEO of InsureMyTrip.com gave his analysis of the survey.  “Money is tight for a lot of people right now and job security is a concern for some,” said Grace.  “Taking less costly, shorter vacations, holding out for super-saver deals, and making sure that any travels are protected with travel insurance, are practical strategies for dealing with the new ‘normal’ of travel today. We are encouraged to see that people are in fact getting back to traveling and that travel insurance is now a ‘must have’.”


Last-Minute Bookings Still Need Travel Insurance!

July 13, 2009

Monthly Sales Tip:
by Isaac Cymrot

Pop quiz!  Your client comes in and books a trip departing in two weeks but declines insurance because the departure date is so close. Do you:

A.  Offer the Worldwide Trip Protector (WTP) as you normally would.

B.  Let them walk out the door with nothing.

C.  Explain that while trip cancellation coverage may no longer be a priority they should still cover themselves for medical emergencies, trip delay, etc while traveling.

If you answered C then you would be correct!  If you chose option A that’s not a bad choice either, but if you encounter resistance you do have an alternative.  Since there has been a dramatic increase in last-minute bookings this year many travel consultants are searching out alternatives for insurance.  One frequently overlooked but appropriate choice is to book the policy at $0 trip cost.

Travel consultants who have been selling our products since before April of 2008 will remember this as our Post Departure program.  The distinguishing feature of the $0 trip cost purchase is that the policy effective date, instead of being one day after the policy is purchased, is not effective until the day of departure. There is no trip cancellation coverage, and trip interruption is limited to $1,000 return air only. Your clients, however, do receive the full emergency medical, medical evacuation, trip delay, baggage benefits and everything else included in the “normal” policy. All of this is included in the $0 trip cost policy at a ridiculously affordable cost.  In addition to the client still receiving excellent coverage, you still earn your commission.

Let us do the math for a moment. Say that you book 20 last-minute packages this summer.  Imagine that all of them, for the sake of this calculation, are in the 36-60 age bracket with each package consisting of 2 people.  The premium rate for the $0 trip plan is $30 per person to cover a $1,000 per person trip, as opposed to $51 for the Worldwide Trip Protector plan. The $30 premium yields $1,200 in total premium for those 20 packages.  The 20 package sales would result in your commission at 25% totaling $300.

Demonstrating your ability to sell this alternative solution for insurance is just one more way to differentiate yourself and prove the value in booking through your agency.  While many clients do not think there is a need for insurance if they are leaving in two weeks, you can draw on your own experiences. Continue to tell the stories about the clients who have had some unforeseen disruption happen to them while traveling.

When your clients tell you they have no need of insurance, tell them a “why” story and sell them the $0 trip cost policy as their affordable, alternative solution.

The time you find yourself in this position, just think about your last client who did not have insurance and needed medical treatment. Think of the one who had a flight delay and had to book an unexpected hotel, or another client who lost his or her bags. Think of all the different disruptions that have occurred to your clients or even to other friends you know while traveling.  The extra time you take to explain why insurance is still important for the last-minute trip could earn you a client for life. It could also win you a bunch of referrals should something go wrong!  Don’t forget that if they purchase their policy within 14 days of initial deposit, or if they pay in full, they still receive the pre-existing conditions waiver!


From the “No Question is Dumb” Mailbag – The Question of the Month:

June 16, 2009

Mailbag-IconThe Question of the Month is a new feature that I am introducing.  My Tip of the Month usually relates to the sales side of travel insurance. It includes handling objections and discussing current events that affect the industry.  But it often overlooks actual policy language and coverage for specific situations that do not merit a lengthy conversation. These topics are important nonetheless. 

Do you have a question about policy coverage or how to handle a specific situation?  This is your opportunity to ask the travel insurance experts at Travel Insured.  Email your question to icymrot@travelinsured.com with “Question of the Month” in the subject line.

Q: My client is booking their cruise now but their airfare is not yet available. How can I cover them for pre-existing conditions?

A: This is by far one of the most frequently-asked questions we receive because it is such a common situation.  The answer is very simple.  First, insure the pieces of the trip that you know when the client makes their initial deposit. Follow the pre-existing condition waiver guidelines:

  • The policy must be purchased within 14 days of initial trip deposit.
  • The client must insure the full non-refundable trip cost.
  • The clients must be medically able to travel at the time of booking.

If these qualifications have been met then your client will be eligible to keep the pre-existing condition waiver should they add costs to their trip.  When they are ready to book the remaining portion or their trip, such as airfare, shore excursions, non-refundable hotel stays or any other prepaid travel costs, you need to contact our Customer Service department. You must update the policy within 14 days of adding costs to the trip or, if not, your clients will lose their coverage for pre-existing medical conditions.


Online Commission Statements Begin June 15th

June 16, 2009

Technology Reminder:

Starting this June 15th, and on the 15th of each month thereafter, your monthly commission statement is available to you on demand by visiting the agency side of our web site at www.travelinsured.com. We hope you can join us in helping reduce our carbon footprint. If, however, you are not yet ready to give up your mailed statement, you can still opt to receive it. Here is how to obtain either your online or mailed commission statement.

  1. Log in as usual to the agent side of the web site (www.travelinsured.com) and land on the “Agent Administration” Page.
  2. Go to “Agency Setup.”
  3. If you want to continue receiving the monthly printed commission statement by mail check the box under Agency Setup that says: “I want to receive a paper commission statement.”
  4. If you want to save time and eliminate mail, go to “Commission Statements” below the Agency Setup. You will see your agency name and number. Use the pull down screen to find the month for the statement you request.
  5. Click on “click here” to download a pdf file of your commission statement. We hope you will help us reduce paper mail.

Are You Ready for the Travel Industry Recovery?

June 16, 2009

Sales Tip of the Month:
by Isaac Cymrot, Mid-Atlantic Sales Manager
 

isaacCan you smell that?  It is not the pollen that has engulfed the Northeast and aggravated our allergies, but the smell of cold hard cash getting ready to flood the pockets of many travel agencies over the course of the next 9 to12 months. There is a great deal of pent-up demand from Americans getting ready to travel again, but the question is are you ready?

We may not see an immediate turn around this summer.  However, if what we read and hear is accurate, demand for travel will begin to increase at the end of 2009 and into 2010.  However, this will not be your typical consumer.  The travel agent industry will be dealing with a cost conscious consumer who will value the service provided more then ever.  Price will be a factor (it always is) but what the consumer gets for that price will be more important.

Remember how poor business was in the fourth quarter last year?  Do not punch me for posing this question, but I ask for a reason.  Think how good the fourth quarter will be this year compared to last if you prepare now and are ready to go when full recovery gets underway.

Leading industry experts have jumped on the opportunity to talk about the value travel agents provide to the consumer.  Go back and read the headlines from just the past month alone and you will find editorial pieces written by the top agents and organizations in our industry.  What have they been writing exactly?  Well to sum it up quickly they have said that the travel agent that has become a true advisor are the one’s that will be in the best position to succeed now and when the boom comes.

Two of your agent colleagues have written articles in the past month that illustrate the opportunity available by making simple preparation.  John Frenaye of Single Parent Travel recently wrote on Travel Research Online (TRO) about having an effective elevator pitch, learning from your mistakes, and how it can be beneficial to both supplier sales reps and travel agents to work together (read both articles at http://www.travelresearchonline.com). 

Charlie Funk of Just Cruisin’ Plus wrote about the importance of valuing your time for the service you provide (read the article here).  Funk makes the key point that it is vital to stand behind the service that you provide.

Where am I going with this?  Two places:  First, both articles point out that if a business person does not understand their own business, then the customer will not understand the value.  When a potential client asks about your business, and you cannot answer them convincingly in 30 seconds, you greatly increase your chances of not earning the business.  In addition, anytime an agent competes directly against the internet with no other value measurement, price will win every time.

The second point speaks to the meat of these articles. Use your travel supplier partnerships that you have created, or use this preparation time to create them, in order to re-educate yourself for the industry turn around so you can create that value.  We have seen a large number of suppliers recently offer commission deals on cruises and tours. They help to sustain business in the short term, but what happens if you return to making your standard commission?  How are you going to make up for revenue if the promotional incentives quickly disappear? 

Your supplier sales reps face similar sales challenges.  Remember when your client books online your supplier sales rep loses the sales benefit just as you do.  We are a sales team. We want to work with you, not against you, to help increase your commissions. 

When I asked John Frenaye about this team dynamic he summed it up well. “Accessibility.  I know you are tied to company policy, but you are MY rep so go to bat for me. Return my call or email. This is a proactive relationship, so work with me to further both our businesses.”

This works both ways, because supplier reps cannot be effective without the same access from you that you ask from us.  If an agent does not welcome a sales rep into their office and allow the rep to share ideas, the rep is limited in the job he or she can do for you.  In applying this to travel insurance, I recently wrote an article for TRO.  I detailed specific things you can do to improve your travel insurance program.  We want to help you increase your sales because without travel agents we cannot be successful.

If your business is slow this summer, devote some free time to upgrading your knowledge through training. Work with your suppliers to create a business plan.  Learn how to target the right type of marketing to the right clients.  For example, if you are a member of a consortium call them up and ask them what types of target marketing they have available. 

Many of these organizations have put together programs that will help you pick the right promotion for your clients.  Consortiums have extensive marketing programs that help send family ads to families and the best deals on luxury cruising to your top clients.  There are plenty of resources available to you through your supplier sales reps that help you maximize your commissions and hit your sales goals.

Use the time you have now.  Take advantage of the commission deals the cruise lines and tour suppliers are offering, but be prepared for the impending travel boom. Know who your partners are so that when the time comes both you and your partners will be ready to rock and roll!


Agent Writer Frenaye Recommends TII to Examiner Readers

June 16, 2009

Consumer Advisory:

Travel agent writer and columnist John Frenaye, president of JVE Group and Single Parent Travel, posted his most recent article on travel insurance (“Travel Insurance: Just the FAQs”) in the Baltimore Examiner web site on May 27. Asking in his article, “who are the good insurers?” Frenaye recommends Travel Insured International on his short list of companies. He notes that Travel Insured is among those insurers that have “been around for a long time and are very good with settling claims….These insurers are long standing preferred suppliers to some of the largest travel companies.”

Drawing on his extensive agency experience, Frenaye points out several other travel insurance tips:

  • On the importance of a travel agent: “Ask your travel professional to review the benefits of all policies for you if you are unsure.”
  • On estimating how much insurance will cost: “Not nearly as much as it will cost if you need it and don’t have it.”
  • On travel suppliers’ own “waivers:” “A trip cancellation waiver usually allows you to cancel your trip for any reason…and receive a full or partial refund, sometimes in funny money to be used with the travel supplier within one year.”

Remind clients that 3rd– party travel insurance is regulated by state insurance rules, an important measure for judging its financial reliability.


Travel Insured’s Herlihy: “Offer Insurance or You’ll Never Sell It”

June 16, 2009

Home-Based Agent Expo:

“If you offer it, you’ll get it. If you don’t offer it, you’ll never get a sale.”
This piece of travel insurance sales advice, along with several others, was offered by Kevin Herlihy, Travel Insured International’s Director of National Accounts, on a panel called “And Remember to Sell…” at the Virtual Home-Based Agent Expo. The event, hosted by Performance Media Group and its publication Travel Pulse online, is available on demand through Sept. 2, 2009. The Home-Based Agent Expo, including a virtual tradeshow, was originally presented online on June 2nd and 3rd.

You can view the panel, hosted by Travel Pulse editor James Shillinglaw. Other panelists discussing with Herlihy the high-commission travel products that agents can sell to serve their clients and support their bottom line are Peter Rahaman, Vice President of Sales at Rail Europe and Joseph Maniscalco, Vice President of Sales for Auto Europe.

In recommending travel insurance for bankruptcy protection, Herlihy noted the uncertain economy and remarked, “No one knows the finances of any supplier at this time.” The Travel Insured director added in an exchange with moderator Shillinglaw that “All of our programs, except WTP Lite, protect against default. As long as you purchase a plan within 14 days [of initial trip deposit] we protect against default.” When asked if “that is the difference between insuring with you and insuring directly with a supplier,” Herlihy responded, “That is a correct statement.”

To see more of the Virtual Home-Based Agent Expo, visit www.virtualhomebasedexpo.com. Click on the red “click here” link near the top right to enter the show directory and select programs for viewing.