Travel insurance companies have been fielding numerous
Hurricane Irma-related calls this week and gearing up to deal with a flood of
claims right on the heels of dealing with Hurricane Harvey.
As of Wednesday, Allianz had received more than 700 calls
related to Irma, said director of communications Daniel Durazo. That number is
expected to grow significantly.
Generali Global Assistance saw a record day of incoming
calls about Irma on Tuesday, CEO Chris Carnicelli reported, and similarly,
insurance agents at InsureMyTrip said there is "record-high call volume."
The calls are from travelers who already have insurance but
have coverage questions, and travelers who do not have insurance but want to
know if they can purchase it.
"It's about a 50-50 split of those with current
coverage versus those seeking coverage," said Carol Mueller, vice
president of marketing at Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection.
Generally, once a storm has been named and is considered a
foreseeable event, travelers cannot purchase coverage for that storm.
Compared with Hurricane Harvey, insurers are bracing for even
more calls relating to Irma.
"We expect given Irma's strength and Florida's position
as a top tourist destination that Irma will drive significantly more travel
insurance claims that Harvey," Durazo said.
Travel insurance companies are preparing their operations to
deal with Irma.
"We have a lot of people cross-trained in various
departments, so it's essentially just moving resources around internally to
make sure that all appropriate departments are staffed correctly," said
Isaac Cymrot, vice president of industry relations at Travel Insured
Normally, resources are funneled into call centers before a
storm and shifted to claims after the storm passes. Having one major storm
immediate follow another is a rather unique situation, but Cymrot said
resources will be allocated accordingly.
Things function similarly at AIG Travel, senior vice
president and chief administrative officer James Page said.
"We keep 10% of our non-call center staff in a resource
pool, which may be activated anytime to manage high call volume," he said.
Other team members are trained to perform a variety of
functions when necessary.
Some face further challenges, like April Travel Protection,
which is located in North Miami, Fla. Employees will likely have to evacuate.
The company is prepared, said CEO Jason Schreier: All information is backed up
in multiple locations outside of South Florida, and staff members have the
ability to work remotely.
April's offices in other cities with other functions, like
emergency assistance for travelers, can also be activated to assist in an
While extra work for employees and longer hours are almost
to be expected during a major event like a hurricane, such events often provide
a boost in sales.
"What we do see, in general -- and I'm guessing the
rest of the industry sees it, as well -- it unfortunately does put a heightened
focus on the needs for travel insurance," Mueller said. "It begins to
start that conversation."
Durazo agreed, saying, "While we are heartbroken to see
the devastation caused by major hurricanes, we find that these events do remind
travelers about the importance of purchasing travel insurance when booking a