All overseas travelers should ensure they have adequate insurance before they leave their home country. Insurance and travel agencies sell policies specifically aimed at travelers. Different types of insurance based on the destination, the number of trips or the type of trip are available. For example someone going on a summer vacation with their family may need single trip insurance. Someone who travels internationally for work purposes may need multi-trip worldwide insurance. Someone who is travelling around Asia may need backpackers, annual, Asia insurance.
Policies often vary and may cover different things. The level of insurance can be referred to as ‘bronze, silver, gold’ or ‘essentials, excel, excel plus’, depending on how the company chooses to name their products. These different levels of cover indicate the sum of monies paid out in the event of a claim.
Generally, a basic travel insurance policy for someone on a budget includes:
- Medical expenses (some include emergency dentistry) - in some countries the cost of medical assistance or hospitalisation can be very high. Insurance companies will pay a certain amount based on number of days in hospital or treatment required.
- Cancellation, curtailment and trip interruption - in the event of cancellation by your client due to circumstances out with their control, the insurance company will pay out for cancellation charges. Curtailment, when the client has traveled to the destination, but needs to return immediately, is also covered by insurance and can be claimed for.
- Personal baggage and money - in the event of personal baggage being ‘lost’ by and airline baggage service you can claim for the cost of the items lost up to a maximum limit. Laptops and business items often require separate additional cover. If the luggage is later returned to your client, the client can claim compensation for each day their luggage was missing. Money can also be claimed for; however, you should suggest to your client all money items are carried in their hand luggage. Money can be claimed for if stolen from your accommodation.
- Personal accident - this may be more relevant for those who are on an adventure holiday, or even may take part in sports whilst on holiday e.g. jet skiing or horse riding. Money claimed can help to pay for every day expenses during the recovery period at home (especially important if your client won’t receive sick pay from work).
- Medical emergency and repatriation - You may need to be flown home by air ambulance or on a flight assisted by a doctor or nurse, this can be costly. In the event of death, the body must be flown back – this cost is covered by insurance, however, note not all medical emergency cover automatically includes repatriation.
- Personal liability - this covers your client’s liability in the event there is accident causing injury or damage to a third person’s property during their holiday. For example, when renting an apartment, if your client breaks the television, the cost for repair or replacement of the television can be claimed for and therefore is not a cost to the apartment owner.
- Departure delay – small compensation is often paid out if the flight, ship, train is delayed at the point of departure. Compensation is often paid out based on every 12 hours of delay.
Additional accommodation and travelling costs – this may happen if the client’s flight is cancelled or delayed. For example, if the client is making the homeward journey and their flight is cancelled, they may need to arrange accommodation for the additional night’s stay and make arrangements to get there by taxi. These costs can be claimed for.
Other effects and circumstances for which cover may be included in more comprehensive and expensive policies include:
- Hijack or mugging
- Catastrophe cover
- Legal protection
- Scheduled airline failure
- Piste closure (skiing holiday)
As a travel agent, you should also be aware of insurance excess and what that means. An excess is the amount the must first be paid for each claim arising from the one event before a claim can be made under the policy.
Your clients may ask you for advice on the best insurance policy to suit their needs; therefore you need to have a basic but broad knowledge of the terminology used in travel insurance and some of the best companies to use within the business area you work. Each insurance company differs, but having a sound knowledge of insurance is essential when selling and arranging people’s travel. Refunds on insurance policies are not common; however, the terms and conditions of each company vary. This is something else you should consider and make your client aware of. Some Insurance companies may request medical screening, and most will not meet claims rising from pre-existing conditions.
If the traveler does have a pre-existing condition, there are specialist insurance companies that may cover them for higher premium. Like wise some companies offer specialised insurance for retirees or those 65+. Additionally there are companies around that specialise in backpacker and adventure travel insurance. It is worth being familiar with the providers of specialised insurance.
Making a Claim
In order to make an insurance claim, a form will need to be completed and returned with written evidence to support the claim or confirmation details of reservations. If there is an emergency the traveler will be able to find information on the policy about what to do.
There are differing procedures depending on the circumstances and the type of claim involved. Due to the fraudulent and exaggerated claims, insurance companies need to investigate and examine every claim no matter how genuine. By following these general rules travellers may minimise claim times:
- Understand your policy.
- Declare any pre-existing medical conditions.
- Take a copy of your policy with you.
- Keep a copy of all emergency numbers with you. All insurers will have emergency contact phone numbers; keep a separate copy of these with you.
- If you need emergency medical treatment, first ring your insurer on their emergency contact number and check the limit of your emergency medical coverage. Bear in mind that the cover is only for the holiday period specified and will not extend past the original return date.
- Always notify your insurers and local authorities (police etc) of theft or loses as soon as possible. Most insurers will require a police report in the case of theft.
If property is lost during transit, first notify the carriers (ie: Airline, boat or sea carriers) and obtain a report from them to include with the insurance claim.
- Keep all receipts and general documents.
- If possible take photos that are time stamped. Photographic evidence is useful.
- Record proof of ownership of expensive items such as cameras, recorders etc. Keep receipts and serial numbers.
- Keep your claim organised. Always state who you are and your policy number. Fasten receipts etc together and to the claim (staple or pin them). Keep a list of what you have sent and to whom and keep details of all conversations with your insurer.
If in doubt, do not hesitate to contact the insurer to make sure the client is getting exactly what they need and the correct advice.
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