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’.”


The Question of the Month: From Tim H.

July 13, 2009

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 How Does Travel Insurance Handle US travel for a Ski Trip And in Particular the Medical Coverage?

A: There are two parts to this answer.  First, the policy itself would function no differently then if the client was traveling internationally.  The coverage is secondary, which means we are still going to cover whatever portion is not covered through their primary insurance provider.  There is a greater possibility that their personal insurance will cover most, if not all, of the medical expense domestically compared to internationally.

Secondly, with specific respect to ski trips there are exclusions in the policy for certain types of extreme and off trail skiing.  These exclusions are detailed in the Description of Coverage.  If your client plans to do one of these types of activities they can purchase the Sports Coverage option for $25 per person and the exclusions will be waived.  The Sports Coverage option also covers pre paid, non-refundable ski passes, ski or equipment rentals, or greens fees.  In addition this option will reimburse for equipment rentals if the client’s own equipment is delayed or misdirected by the Common Carrier.

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.


Air Passengers Can Protect Against Unforeseen Quarantines

July 13, 2009

Trip Interruption:

The U.S. State Department on June 19th published an alert to travelers about possible medical quarantine procedures now being imposed by the Chinese government on some arriving airline passengers to prevent the spread of flu virus. Among those, for example, unexpectedly quarantined in a Beijing hotel for three days in mid-June were New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and his wife, both of whom missed a scheduled meeting. According to the Washington Post, all arriving passengers are being screened in China to see if they exhibit flu-like symptoms. If they do, sick passengers as well as fellow passengers on the same flight can be detained for up to 7 days to make sure the flu virus is not spreading.

Quarantine in China due to the H1N1 virus is no longer ‘unforeseen’ based on the U.S. State Department public announcement of June 19 and, therefore, no longer a covered reason for Trip Interruption coverage in China.

However, Travel Insured customers can be covered up to the Trip Interruption limits specified on their policy when traveling to other destinations, wherever an unforeseen quarantine disrupts their trip.


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.”


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!


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!