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Insurance continues to hit the news again following the insurance bodies and the consumers' association recent complaint to the government, on its decision not to regulate the sale of policies through travel agents via the FSA.

From a consumers' point of view, however, insurance is often low on the agenda when booking a holiday, and is more likely to be booked as a last minute thought or not at all. Recent holiday surveys demonstrate this, having identified that nearly half of all holidaymakers do not take out insurance before heading off on a trip, not realising how important cover is while abroad.

Now that ABTA has announced it is pressing ahead with the launch of its own compulsory insurance exam for members, which will also be available to non-ABTA agents, I am sure this will assist in rebuilding consumer confidence, by demonstrating to customers that it is an industry-wide recognised qualification. Backed by the recent decision allowing ABTA to continue to regulate its members over the sale of insurance, I am convinced that agents will be able to seize this opportunity to boost their earnings potential via insurance sales.

Although a step in the right direction by ABTA, I am hoping that these developments will also lead to an increase in insurance focussed training initiatives, as the travel industry cannot afford to take a relaxed approach when it comes to educating agents on the issues affecting this sector. At present, there is a real need for ABTA, and for insurance providers, to sit down to discuss, and where required, develop further industry-wide practices, and even go so far as to establishing an industry forum, to keep abreast of all the latest developments.

Providers of insurance need to be advising agents on the importance of why to sell insurance, and also how to sell it in a manner which fully protects the travel agent, as well as the consumer. Insurance providers continue to remain regulated by industry bodies, and have to conform to FSA regulations, however, at present, agents are not regulated, so it is important to highlight to them any developments in the industry, which may have an impact on their business.

Introducing on-going agent training initiatives, and using key seminars and conferences as additional platforms from which to keep the industry up to date on the latest developments are vital, if we are to ensure that the travel industry realises how increasingly important the insurance sector is, especially at such a critical time when we are expecting the market to become more complex, and competitive than ever before.

Patrick Chong, Managing Director, Journeys Travel Insurance


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