As I was going through my mailbox and answering “Ask the Expert” questions, I stumbled across one that really stood out. Now granted I’ve answered just about every accessible travel question you can imagine– and a few you can’t — however this one really didn’t ask for advice, but instead solicited my opinion about a travel agent that “pushed travel insurance”. It wasn’t like I could do anything to solve the problem at hand, but I thought if I explained the rationale behind the travel agent’s actions, then perhaps the person who wrote to me would have a better understanding of it all.
And although it really didn’t make the “Ask the Expert” cut, it seemed incredibly blog-worthy. So if you’ve ever experienced the hard-sell on travel insurance from your travel agent, here are some of the reasons behind it all.
First and foremost, travel agents want happy clients. I know this because I know a lot of travel agents, and frankly they are not happy when their clients are not happy. And if something happens to a client and they have to cancel their trip, they won’t be happy. It’s just that simple. So yes, deep down, they really do have your best interests at heart.
They also want repeat clients. And they want you to come home with good memories, so you will come back to them. And if you miss your cruise because of a flight delay, then have to fork out big bucks to catch up with the ship, you’re not going to have a good memory. But if you are reimbursed for your additional flights, you’ll have memories of a competent travel agent who made sure you had the right travel insurance coverage. And hopefully you’ll tell your friends too.
And sometimes the reason they get so “pushy” is that they have deadlines. For example, if you want coverage for a pre-exisiting condition you usually only have a few weeks from the time you book your trip to get this coverage. And since many disabled people have pre-exisiting conditions, travel insurance without that coverage would be pretty useless. So that’s the reason for the travel agent’s urgency, which is some cases could be perceived as pushiness.
Now of course, I have to show both sides of the issue, so you also have to realize that travel agents earn a commission on travel insurance. Could that also be the reason for the hard sell? In some cases, yes. It depends on your agent. Most of them really do have their clients best interests at heart, but of course there are a few bad apples in every profession.
And last but not least, in many cases a travel agent’s commission is protected with travel insurance. Travel agents don’t get compensated until their clients actually complete a trip, so if you cancel they don’t earn a commission — unless of course you have the right insurance.
So should you buy travel insurance? That depends. If you have a chronic condition you should seriously consider it. Personally I’ve never purchased trip interruption insurance, but both Charles and I carry a yearly policy for emergency medical evacuation and supplemental medical costs, that covers us on every trip we take. At just $149 per year, it fills our needs and is very affordable. And considering that an emergency medical evacuation can cost over $50,000, it’s money well spent for me.
On the other hand, for me trip interruption insurance isn’t really prudent, or even economical. Sure, over the course of my extensive travels I have missed planes, had delays and had to pony up cash for additional expenses; but in the long run I’ve spent much less for those additional expenses than I would have on trip interruption insurance premiums for every single one of my trips.
So that’s what works for me, but of course, it may be different for you. My best advice is to do some research and learn a little bit about travel insurance, so you’ll be better prepared when your travel agent brings it up. Trust me the subject will come up, and if you’re prepared for the discussion, then you can take control, and it won’t seem like something is being “pushed” on you. After all, a little education can be a very empowering thing!