Canadian Underwriter

How to speak to your clients about travel advisories

December 24, 2021   by Alyssa Di Sabatino

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As of Dec. 15, the federal government advised Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada.  

These advisories could pose problems for those who made plans to travel during the holiday season. 

“This is a response to the growing challenges, not only in Canada but around the world,” said Elliott Silverstein, Director, Government Relations, CAA Insurance. “We saw some Canadians getting the comfort to want to travel again. And now we’re at a point of, again, having to exercise caution and experiencing various types of travel restrictions.”  

While the advisories instruct travelers to postpone or cancel their trips where possible, many may be hesitant to do so or may plan to travel regardless. 

Insurance companies should be prepared to address upcoming concerns with travel insurance policyholders. 

“What it comes down to right now is the need to make sure that consumers are aware of what’s in their policy,” said Silverstein.  

“It’s twofold — there is the responsibility that falls on the traveler. But I think it’s also companies in general [who should be able to] explain and provide answers and assurance of knowing what’s in a policy and what’s not in a policy because it does vary by company.”  

While some policies may be negated on the spot due to the advisories, many aren’t, and travelers may find themselves unwittingly responsible for a policy that they will no longer be using.  

Insurance companies should be prepared to help policyholders make a decision on whether they want to travel or not by ensuring they’re educated in their policies.  

“I think it’s about companies encouraging the public — their policyholders — to look at what’s in their policy to understand what coverages they do have, what coverages they don’t have, what their limits are,” said Silverstein.  

Constantly changing advisories make answering consumer questions more difficult for the travel insurance industry. 

“That’s the challenge not only for the industry but for consumers as well as because you can’t have a singular answer to the question, unfortunately,” said Silverstein on the changing advisories.  

With travel and border restrictions continuing to change around the world, return options could become limited at any time, leaving travelers in a tough spot should they need to return to Canada on short notice.  

“For consumers, it’s about making that determination. Did they buy a trip and they want to see it through? That’s entirely up to them. But that’s also why, from our perspective, we’re really trying to encourage people to understand and do their homework,” said Silverstein.  

Silverstein said the worst thing a consumer can do is assume they’re fully covered, especially with restrictions, mandatory COVID-19 tests and quarantine requirements that are constantly changing.  

“What it comes down to, for [companies] is really trying to help people understand, ask the questions. But most importantly not to assume. The worst, the worst thing that you could do right now is to embark on a trip and believe you have full coverage.” 

CAA Insurance conducted a survey for internal use in the fall which surveyed clients on their likelihood of purchasing travel insurance.  

“We actually saw an increase in people who were looking to take out insurance going forward. We understood that there was a segment of the population that had not purchased insurance previously … whether it be trip cancellation or medical insurance,” said Silverstein.  

Silverstein reported that one-third of the public traditionally tends to buy travel insurance, and a quarter of survey respondents said they would now plan to buy it in the future.   

“We’re seeing roughly about a quarter of our survey respondents have said that the pandemic will make them more likely to purchase travel, medical insurance of the future. So, we are seeing about one-quarter of the population that is making that shift.” 

Silverstein advised the travel insurance industry to prepare for questions from consumers, now that many are “traveling smarter.”  

“Be prepared for a lot of inquiries. Really, the thing is that consumers are going to look to a trusted advisor. The more that the industry can serve as an advisor to give them the information to make an informed decision, it will help create trust, it’ll help create confidence between the consumer and the business.” 


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