Navigating client safety | TravelResearchOnline


Navigating client safety

This column is called “Editorial Musings” and usually I ramble about whatever travel topic pops into my mind and seems timely and appropriate. This week, I want to explore a different angle and pose a broad question and solicit your feedback in the comment section–if you aren’t planning to leave a comment, please stop reading.

Seriously, I expect you to join in the conversation!

The background

Earlier this month, a 14 year old girl was caught in the crossfire and killed in St. Thomas. She was a guest on a Carnival ship that entered port as a Fun Ship and left with a decidedly different tone. For the most part, St. Thomas is what I consider a “safe” port. I might venture to say that any agent who has sold more than three cruises has likely sent a client to St. Thomas.

Earlier this summer, some civil unrest broke out in Kingston, Jamaica. The US was looking for a drug lord who was holed up in some slums in Kingston. There were guns, gangs, and shootings. By the time it all calmed down and the guy was arrested and sent to the US, 74 people had died. Fortunately, it was isolated to those slums and there were no tourists involved. Jamaica has an off and on history of being a “safe” destination.

The question

Certainly, as agents, we can never assure anyone’s safety. The aluminum tube at 30,000 feet hurtling through the sky at 600 mph could drop at any minute. Sure, insurance is a decent proactive/reactive idea. Proactive in that we are looking ahead and planning for as many contingencies as possible. And reactive in that if something happens, the client is financially limited. It really doesn’t do anything for any of the non-financial issues—nor should it.

How do you handle issues like this? How do you vet out clients and their tolerance for risk? Do you feel confident in your capabilities to offer legitimate consultation? Do you feel you are protected from liability?

  3 thoughts on “Navigating client safety

  1. Ann Petronio says:

    What a great question, John! I think we all know that if a client runs into problems on a trip (whether it’s serious injury or death…all the way down to food poisoning or damaged luggage) they can start looking for someone to blame, and we may be one of their targets. But as my husband (an attorney) tells me, ANYONE can be sued. Being found liable by a court of law is an entirely different matter.

    I do a number of things to protect myself from liability. I make sure that all discussions of possible risk, dangerous destinations, etc. are in writing (via email) so there’s documentation of what exactly what was said. I make no promises of safety, anywhere in the world, and refer any client who is questioning things to the appropriate state department guidelines/warnings. I never talk a client into a destination or activity that they are hesitant about (even if I feel their fears are unfounded). I include a legal disclaimer with all confirmations/receipts (it specifically says that I don’t control the suppliers and am not at fault for any injuries, losses, etc.) And I strongly urge all clients to have insurance (95% do take it; those that don’t have to sign a waiver)

    Could I still be sued by a client some day? Sure. But I’m hoping that all those steps will protect me from actually being found to have been at fault.

    Am very interested to see what everyone else is doing!

  2. Geoff Millar says:

    I think it is a great issue. Adding to what Ann said, I think just being honest to clients about the dangers of traveling is key. I neither down-play or up-play any dangers but present the facts to the client and let them make up their own mind. I alos try to explain the geogrophy to the client. I find a lot of clients are misinformed as far as geogrophy. An example of one of the ways I do this is with the violence on the Mexican borders I explain that Cancun is 1,500 miles from the closest issues on the border. I explain that we, in Phoenix, are closer to one of the problem areas on the border, the city of Nogales, only 180 miles away.

    I do not try to sway them either way but give them honest facts to help them with their decision. Ultimatly it will be their decision. I just want them to have the facts not the blown out of proportion facts the see on the news. I do also explain taht when the go to Mexico and the Caribbean that, for the most part, they are going to third world countries. Given the facts most of our clients are able to make a decision they feel comfortable with.

    As an aside, there was a 3 page article in the paper that shows that Violent crimes including murder are actuall at their lowest rates in Mexico since the 1980s. Only two states in Mexico have higher violent crime rates and those two are on the border.

  3. Isaac Cymrot says:


    Great column as usual! There are new coverages available through travel insurance policies that can help you be proactive with your clients with respect to their safety while traveling. Some policies now offer assistance to clients should they find themselves in a dangerous situation or potentially dangerous situation (mostly due to political unrest, but coverage is expanding for other incidents too) which have not been available in the past. These policies are no longer strictly for trip cancellation and medical coverage, but most clients will never learn that without talking to a travel agent.

    There are higher risks to traveling to certain parts of the world but as this situation has shown danger can pop up anywhere. This can be yet another advantage and argument for booking through an experienced travel agent. You can address these concerns as needed and advise your client accordingly to make sure they not only enjoy their vacation and come back to book again, but also to provide them with the protection they need.

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