The temperature is falling, the leaves are changing colours, and the birds are migrating for the winter, including snowbirds who are leaving Canada to escape the season. While websites like Expedia offer options to purchase travel insurance in ways that might make sense for younger travellers, seniors, who start quoting and purchasing policies in August onwards, tend to have more complex needs, making brokers’ advice invaluable.
“We really want to sell our products to brokers. It’s one of the best distribution channels that we have because insurance brokers do nothing but study insurance,” said Karen Costain, national director of business development for the broker channel at Allianz Global Assistance Canada, who adds that insurance professionals will turn out in droves for the company’s training sessions to stay current with policy wordings and any changes in market trends. “That’s really important because seniors have a whole host of medical conditions that a 25-year-old doesn’t have. They’re also really savvy and they’re looking for the best prices. They don’t want to be spending $5,000 or $6,000 on a policy, which some can be if you’ve got a lot of conditions.”
Brokers understand how to cover all the worries that seniors might have, taking into account the type of travel their client is undertaking, the duration of the trip, and any medical conditions that could cause hiccups along the way, and they know how to educate their customers before they leave for their trip instead of waiting for an unexpected situation to unfold. That education becomes doubly important considering that many seniors today aren’t just going down to Florida to relax on a beach for a few months.
“They’re not travelling like our grandparents used to – they’re jumping out of planes, they’re heli-skiing, going to Asia or, god forbid, war-torn countries,” said Costain. “They go on treks, and it’s wonderful to see, but we want to make sure we know how their heart is [doing], and we know when their last check-up was.”
At the start of the snowbird season, Allianz ensures that brokers are aware of any changes to its offerings, the important questions to ask clients, and how to find the best prices.
“We have some brokers that really specialize in that market,” said Costain. “[For] most brokers, it’ll be home, auto, marine, and ‘oh yeah, I think we sell travel.’ But these brokers, especially in Ontario and in Eastern Canada, we see the real snowbird specialists and that’s all they do.”
If a senior buys travel insurance online, it can be an issue. They might not understand the questions or answer ‘yes’ when they should be checking off ‘no.’
“It doesn’t mean they won’t get the policy, but they’ll be rated appropriately so we can cover them,” explained Costain, and while the company does work with online partners, it’s the broker channel that offers the education piece many customers can’t find elsewhere. “We’re not going to say no to the online partners that want to sign up with us, but we’re always going to recommend to the public that they’re aware of where to go in their community to get their needs met.”