Takeaways from Travel Market Place’s Insurance Seminar

Lisa Callaghan and Rob Lafrate
Lisa Callaghan and Rob Iafrate

Once the driest of topics, travel insurance is now hot – as evidenced by the packed seminar at this week’s Travel Marketplace East 2021. There to share their wisdom and insights were Rob Iafrate, AVP, Travel Insurance Affinity Markets with Manulife and Lisa Callaghan, Chief Product and Underwriting Officer with Allianz Global Assistance.

Not surprisingly, they were barraged with questions about the changing world of insurance and how travel advisors can best navigate this new landscape.

One of the biggest changes Covid has brought is that we are now much more open to discussing the topic. “Canadians are now talking insurance at the dinner table,” Callaghan said. “The value of insurance has not changed – but people are now open to discussing it.” Iafrate added that it used to be a topic that advisors dreaded bringing up, whereas now clients are concerned and eager to be informed.

The travel insurance seminar
The travel insurance seminar

We are, as a nation, uninformed consumers to health care, said Callaghan, as we have no idea how much it costs in other countries – or even in other provinces. “As travel advisors, you have a role to talk about the potential consequences.”

And like the rest of our industry, we were told, travel insurance is evolving to meet new challenges. “Covid has raised the risk. There are issues about ICU capacities abroad, and trip delay and interruption concerns have heightened dramatically,” said Iafrate. There are additional concerns for travellers in the 50+ age bracket who may feel comfortable about a long booking window, but who need to consider every potential event that may happen between booking and departing.

The “new” travel insurance may end up even more of a menu, says Iafrate, with add-ons for, e.g. cash refunds rather than credits for cruises; CFR (cancel for any reason) and travelling during a Level 3 (“avoid all unnecessary travel”) advisory.

When asked for tips for travel advisors, the duo had several useful ones:

BDMs Shelley Koppys of Manulife and Susan Lawson of Allianz
BDMs Shelley Koppys of Manulife and Susan Lawson of Allianz

Remember to also sell insurance to clients travelling within Canada outside of their home province. There are “gaps” in coverage: an Ontario resident requiring a procedure in BC that costs $800 will be reimbursed at the Ontario rate which may be several hundred dollars less.

  • Build your product knowledge. The Travel Health Insurance Association has certification courses which will truly up your game and your confidence.
  • Ask clients if they have travel insurance coverage through their employer, for example. This coverage may not be comprehensive enough.
  • “Use your BDMs,” counsels Callaghan. Their expertise and finger-on-the-pulse familiarity with their products and the current changes will be invaluable.

Martha Chapman


An OJ columnist since 2006, Martha is responsible for the Biting Questions series as well as special seasonal series. She can often be seen On The Town covering industry events. Known to all in the biz, Martha has worked her entire career in travel, beginning as a teenaged hotel receptionist in Bermuda.

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