Let me give it to you up front. Five simple words could save your business: Would. You. Like. Travel. Insurance?
A few weeks ago I read a horrifying story that might have some serious implications for a travel agent. A mother and child were essentially being held medically hostage in Mexico after her son fell ill onboard a Carnival ship. Most of us have been on a cruise before. Most of us know that we all cringe when we see the bill that is quietly slipped under the cabin door on the last night. But what if that bill were for tens of thousands of dollars?
And you were held until it was paid…
The boy fell ill and needed an emergency appendectomy and a section of his bowel removed. Obviously this is nothing that Carnival is prepared to do between shifts of handing out Dramamine. He was offloaded to a hospital in Progreso, Mexico for the surgery. But the catch? The doctors and hospital needed to be paid in cash before the surgery.
Many US based health insurance plans do not cover care in a foreign land and the cruisers did not purchase a supplemental travel insurance policy.
$3300 for surgery and $900 per day for a hospital stay in cash. Let that sink in for a moment.
Few of us have access to those type of funds immediately. And then there is the added cost of an air ambulance to the US and eventually back home. While no estimate is given, I suspect this medical bill will come close to $100,000.
Carnival has decided to refund the cost of the cruise and is working to help fund the transportation back to the US, but there is still a lot of out of pocket expenses.
So, how is a travel agent responsible? This whole expense (not the incident) could have been averted with a low cost insurance policy. It would have been a no-hassle claim. But if the client was not made aware of the policy, the agency could be partially on the hook.
We are always wanting to be counted among professionals and cringe when we are called “order takers.” This is a perfect example of where being a professional comes into play. At a bare (very bare) minimum, each client should be made aware that travel insurance is an option—remember many of our clients are naïve travelers. Ideally, a signed statement (in person or electronic) should be obtained that the client was presented the option of the insurance and declined to accept it.
I have no idea if this case will ever go to court or any lawsuits will be filed, but let this be a lesson to you to protect yourself. While this is a relatively minor medical emergency, just think about a massive heart attack or death.
Of course, every agency ought to have an errors and omissions policy in place as well; but keep in mind that this may not fully cover you in an instance like this. It’s a simple question, “Would you like travel insurance?” And one that could save your business.