Canada’s changing travel insurance industry
Kristina van der Wal, Director, Sales and Marketing, Travelance, is uniquely placed to understand the travel insurance sector. She shared with Mandy Langfield her views on the current industry landscape and ever-changing consumer trends
You’ve been with Travelance for over eight years. What have been the biggest changes in the travel insurance sector since you started?
Due to Covid-19, the need for travel insurance has increased and the importance of always carrying adequate quality insurance has become clear to many who were hesitant before.
We have experienced a steady increase in sales as the travel restrictions have lessened
Aside from Covid and its aftereffects, what has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced, and how have you overcome it?
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) recently announced, without warning, that they would no longer accept Visitors to Canada Emergency Medical Insurance Plans, purchased on monthly instalments for super visa applicants. This was a selling feature for us that helped many visitors and newcomers buy affordable insurance in instalments. This created chaos for a couple of weeks, as the visas were rejected solely because the insurance was not paid in full. However, at Travelance, all teams met to come to a quick resolution to offer a way to fully pay out the policies, ensuring they met the IRCC super visa application requirements.
How has Travelance changed, updated and improved its products in the past two years to cater for a public with a vastly different set of priorities?
We have responded to the changes within the market in a variety of ways:
Introducing the Monthly Payment Option for our Visitors to Canada Emergency Medical Insurance Plans
Adapting our travel and emergency medical insurance policies for Covid benefits
Reduced rates for our Visitors to Canada Emergency Medical Insurance Essential Plan, to make insurance more affordable for tourists and families visiting Canada
Introduced a new International Student Travel Insurance policy in September 2022, to provide a more robust policy for those coming to Canada to study.
Canada’s travel insurance business is set for ongoing growth as people start to travel again. Are you seeing an increase in sales, and what types of cover are customers interested in?
We have experienced a steady increase in sales as the travel restrictions have lessened. We hope to continue this trend throughout the winter and next year. Our clients are interested in purchasing coverage they can depend on. They are often concerned with how the policy would respond in the case of a positive Covid diagnosis.
What are your primary distribution channels – and how are you planning to grow these as time goes on?
Our main distribution channel is through licensed insurance brokers in Canada. These brokers distribute through in-person and online sales. We also offer direct sales through our website and Support Services Team.
In Canada, we are fortunate to have an Ombudsman in place to advocate for both parties in disputes which cannot be resolved
Training of call-centre staff can be difficult, as they need as much information as possible from customers. How thorough is the Travelance training process?
Travelance team members are given training through multiple channels. We provide it via our online learning management system, as well as hands-on, one-on-one instruction with the Manager of Support Services. As they go live, helping brokers with questions, other Support Services and Sales team members are available to assist real-time with any queries.
When it comes to resolving conflict and complaints with customers, do you think that insurers work effectively enough with the ombudsman service in Canada?
In Canada, we are fortunate to have an Ombudsman in place to advocate for both parties in disputes which cannot be resolved through the insurance company’s complaint process. Personally, I do not have any experience in dealing with cases through the Ombudsman.