Uninsured Spa Resort Guest Learns Hard Lesson

July 13, 2009

Getaway Vacation Coverage:

The Baltimore Examiner web site on June 24 recounted the experience of a Houston traveler who booked a weekend resort getaway for two days at The Crossings, a spa resort in nearby Austin billed as “Texas’ Premier Green Spa & Wellness Resort,” with three-day packages costing about $1,000 per person. The traveler, because she was driving on a short-distance weekend trip, chose to travel uninsured.

Unfortunately, the traveler suffered a severe ankle injury on the day before departure, but drove anyway to the resort where her ankle turned “stiff, swollen and blue.” The pain forced her to head home for a doctor after one hour. Her booking was non-refundable.

The Baltimore Examiner’s travel expert Richard Earls, publisher of Travel Research Online, was able to negotiate a refund for the spa resort traveler that would not normally be available to a guest in her situation. Earls wrote her the following advice: “…Travel insurance is an important protection against exactly the type of mishap you experienced. Had you used a good travel agent, I am confident that travel insurance would have been recommended. However, you booked directly with the property online, and I understand that travel agents and travel insurance are seldom top-of-mind considerations when traveling to a destination within driving distance… In the future, give real consideration to a travel agent and an insurance policy, no matter how short a trip to protect your investment.”

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Every Travel Insured WTP Plan Includes Commission Protection

July 13, 2009

Agent Support:

Travel agents dealing with this year’s decline in travel prices and the resulting erosion of their commission dollars have reason to protect every dollar they earn. Travel Insured International is a leader in protecting travel agents’ commissions with our inclusion of no-fee travel agent commission protection with every type of Worldwide Trip Protector policy you sell. Agents selling a comprehensive Worldwide Trip Protector or Worldwide Trip Protector Gold plan, or a Worldwide Trip Protector Lite or Lite Expanded plan, have their base travel commission up to 15% protected (Commission Protection is not payable if a claim is paid under Travel Insured’s Cancel for Any Reason benefit or if a claim is paid due to the financial default of an airline, cruise line, tour operator or other travel supplier). There is no up-front fee or back-end reduction.

As a Travel Insured agent partner, you need not worry that a client filing a claim for a covered reason will cost you a travel commission. After the claim is filed, the Travel Insured claims department will gather the needed information and resolve the claim refund that is due your client. Once the claim process is completed you may then file your own agent claim for the commission refund. You will need to document the original booking and the agent commission that you would have been due from the travel supplier had the trip not been cancelled.

As you look for every financial edge in a tough market Travel Insured gives you one to rely upon. Booking a Worldwide Trip Protector gets you valuable agent commission protection without paying extra for it!


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.


USA Today Travel Report Spotlights TII’s Job Loss Protection

June 16, 2009

Media Update:

USA Today travel columnist Bill McGee turned his attention to job loss protection in travel insurance in his monthly “On the Road” column posted May 24, 2009. McGee reviewed the newest developments in coverage allowing Trip Cancellation for booked travelers when they lose their job between initial deposit and their trip. He described Travel Insured International’s Cancel for Work Reasons option, introduced in March of this year partly in response to consumer demand. The option, McGee noted, upgrades job loss coverage from the standard protection for loss of a job held three continuous years to protection for a job held only one year prior to its being lost.

McGee also noted that the Cancel for Work Reasons option, priced at $24, allows trip cancellations for a broad range of work-related issues, including a documented work conflict; a company made unsuitable to do business due to a natural disaster, vandalism, or burglary; a company involved in an acquisition or merger in which the insured is directly involved; or the relocation of the insured’s job and primary residence 250 miles or more.


National Weather Service Predicts Between 4 and 7 2009 Hurricanes

June 16, 2009

Risk Advisory:

The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center has issued its forecast for the 2009 hurricane season, which runs from June 1 until Nov. 30. The prediction is for a 50% chance of a “near normal” season of moderate storm activity in the Atlantic. NWS forecasters look for between 9 and 14 named storms, of which between 4 and 7 storms may become hurricanes. There is an expectation that one of the hurricanes could be a Category 3 or greater, meaning a storm with minimum 111 m.p.h. sustained winds.

Hurricane seasons have been marked by surprises in recent years, and travel agents should always recommend that their clients add travel insurance in preparation for the unexpected. Last year was the first year ever for two hurricane statistics. There were six consecutive named storms, including four hurricanes, that struck the mainland U.S. during the season. There was also a category 3 hurricane in the Atlantic during each of five consecutive months, including Bertha in July, Gustav in August, Ike in September, Omar in October and Paloma in November. Agents should also remind their clients that in 2005, after 15 named storms and 9 hurricanes were predicted for the season, there were subsequently 28 named storms and 15 hurricanes, including the majors Katrina, which struck New Orleans, and Wilma, which struck Cancun.

Travel Insured’s Worldwide Trip Protector line of plans include Trip Cancellation, Trip Interruption, Trip Delay, Missed  Port of Call and Missed Connection, which can be triggered by a hurricane or other disruptive weather activity. Not all plans include all coverage and clients should consult the terms and conditions of each plan for the specific coverage and plan costs that work for them. Clients concerned about traveling when a storm is potentially heading toward their destination might consider a Cancel for Any Reason upgrade as their best option. By buying the Cancel for Any Reason upgrade within 14 days of their initial trip deposit, clients may cancel up to two or more days prior to their scheduled departure date for up to a 75% reimbursement of their non-refundable prepaid vacation costs. Remember that the Cancel for Any Reason option must be purchased before the storm is named for coverage to apply!