It Pays to Understand Travel Insurance

Understanding travel insurance from an agency owner’s point of view.

Editor and freelance writer Marc R. Kassouf

Several years ago, our agency received a call from one of our new, challenging clients. You know the type: the client who calls to ask you about two dozen destinations and a dozen different products, and only after doing her own research online. She can’t decide if the family wants a cruise or land experience, ski, beach, culture or sports event. Or, she doesn’t know if it will be a summer trip or a Christmas holiday vacation. This time, however, the challenge was about detailed technical questions on travel insurance.

Just when I thought I knew just about everything I ever needed (or ever wanted) to know about travel insurance, out of the blue, Suzie (let’s call her that for this article) decides she wants to buy travel insurance with her cruise vacation. No problem, I think to myself, since we have two preferred insurance suppliers in our consortia and they each have a good menu of different options. So we recommend the right product from our supplier options to Suzie, and expect her to call in a day or two after she’s discussed with her husband whether they want the low- or high-coverage option. Piece of cake, right?

Suzie, however, is an educated consumer, the do-it-yourself type that likes to research things thoroughly before making up her mind, so when she calls in two days, it’s to ask us about two totally different travel insurance products, from two insurance companies we hadn’t heard of. Keep in mind that, at this point, she’s already booked her cruise for her family of five and our agency is already assured a nice commission since the booking was deposited and paid in full less than 90 days before sailing. Also, it’s the beginning of summer, and Suzie’s desperate for that family trip. So, even though our office was busy, this was a legitimate, though annoying, request from a new client who had already put her money where her mouth was.

Insurance is one of the few, if not the only, consumer products that you have to pay for when you don’t need it, can’t afford to be without and yet you can’t buy it when you need it the most. By selling travel insurance to your clients, you assure that their vacation investment is protected and their peace of mind assured, and you showcase your valuable expertise throughout the sales and support process. You also further protect your agency against liability. And let’s not forget that selling travel insurance can also be very profitable. Correctly implemented travel insurance promotion programs that generate a high percent of insured vacations will dramatically increase the commissions per booking. At our agency, sometimes as much as 50 percent of the total commission generated on a leisure booking — particularly the budget and mid-market product — can come directly from travel insurance.

In the end, I began to work on Suzie’s questions. I researched all the products from several additional travel insurance companies to the point of nausea. I read all the detailed Declarations of Coverage and Terms and Conditions (the long ones, not the short summaries) and, in the process, my agency acquired some valuable insights, skills and expertise about the detailed workings and mechanics of travel insurance. We won the heart of our new client, who was not only impressed with our newfound expertise, but also appreciated that we listened to her needs as a customer.

Now, I look back at Suzie’s call and I’m actually thankful that she — the quintessential fussy, detail-oriented consumer — decided to question our expertise. I have learned to welcome the customer that challenges us to challenge ourselves. Because of them, we continue to enhance our knowledge. After all, our expertise is one of our only selling differentiators that elevates our services above the click-and-book options they have so readily at their fingertips. So, like Suzie, I challenge you to learn more about the breadth of products and offerings with your current travel insurance supplier and find additional ones. You never know where your next big, fat commission check may come from — plus, insurance is good for your clients as well.

About the Author
Marc Kassouf is owner and CEO of Pride Travel, which specializes in catering to the needs of gay and lesbian clientele. Kassouf holds numerous industry certifications, most notably by Cruise Lines International Association, the Travel Institute and various destination visitors’ bureaus including Europe, Asia and the Americas. He sits on two board committees of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, has traveled to nearly four dozen countries and has sailed on more than 60 cruises.

First published: TravelAge West magazine, May 16, 2011