Why Travel Agents Should Prepare Clients for Disasters

It’s critical that travel advisors prepare clients for real-world crises By: Kenneth Shapiro
Shapiro // © 2018 TravelAge West
Shapiro // © 2018 TravelAge West

This issue’s cover story, “Risky Business” (page 14), examines the important role that travel advisors play when disaster strikes and looks at how they can prepare clients should a trip go wrong. This is a crucial service that agents provide and a true differentiator between advisors and booking via the internet. People’s lives can be deeply affected by how well a critical situation is handled.

It’s a certainty that something will always go wrong, whether it’s disease, natural disaster, political strife or terrorism. Sometimes it feels like a giant wheel is turning and we’re seeing the same situations play out again and again. Travelers and agents need to face facts and prepare now for whatever is eventually around the corner.

One way advisors can help is through travel insurance. In just the past few years, we’ve seen an uptick in the number of agents who suggest, or even insist, that clients purchase insurance. And, of course, that makes perfect sense. Travelers only need to glance at the headlines to see some of the challenges of travel.

Agents can also familiarize themselves with the work of the U.S. Travel Insurance Association (USTIA). The organization is charged with promoting the ethical sale and promotion of insurance to the traveling public. It’s also the expert on providing advice related to submitting and processing claims — especially, for instance, after a major, widespread disaster such as the hurricanes we recently saw in the Caribbean.

Most travel insurance excludes hurricane coverage once a hurricane or tropical storm becomes a named event, so the USTIA recommends that travelers purchase plans at the time of booking. This is relevant information: For example, there was a 40 percent increase in claims submitted in 2017 versus the same time period in 2016.

The volatility in today’s world can easily discourage travelers from leaving their homes, but travel insurance — and a travel agency’s crisis-management plan — can be just the answer for jittery clients. It’s up to advisors to remove all barriers to travel for their clients — even if obstacles are unforeseen.

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