Travel is something every student should experience, but it can be unpredictable, especially with young children or teenagers. If something goes wrong on a student tour, you want to be sure you’ve taken every precaution to ensure the safety and well-being of your students. That’s where travel insurance and crisis management come in. They offer student tour organizers peace of mind on the road, assisting with small inconveniences like lost luggage or missed flights to major emergencies like physical injuries or natural disasters.
There is still some confusion around exactly what travel insurance is and what it covers, and the difference between it and crisis management services. In many cases, student travel planners will opt for just travel insurance, thinking it will provide all the coverage they need, when, in fact, it might not. Other times, planners will choose emergency coverage, but not standard travel insurance. The worst case scenario is an organizer that decides to forgo coverage altogether, thinking there is no need to spend the money.
Experts in the travel insurance industry have seen almost every possible dangerous scenario, and when it comes to student travel, they say coverage is a necessity.
How Does Travel Insurance Work?
It may seem like an obvious question, but many people are not sure what travel insurance is, what it covers or if they really need it.
According to Allianz Global Assistance, travel insurance offers financial safeguards for a range of different scenarios, such as nonrefundable tickets or hotel stays, travel interruptions and even lost luggage. The features of travel insurance are broad, depending on the company providing the package and the policy you select for your student group.
Travel insurance is there to protect the economic side of travel—trip cancellations or interruptions, medical costs, etc. If a student tour has to be canceled last-minute or in the middle of the trip for any reason, a good travel insurance plan will cover the costs of the cancellation. If a student gets sick and needs to go to a hospital in a foreign country, many policies will offer coverage for the medical expenses. Students and their parents may already have health insurance, but more often than not, those plans won’t cover you when you’re traveling outside the U.S.
What Are Travel Crisis Management and Response Services?
It’s important to draw a distinction between travel insurance and crisis management because many people think they are one in the same. As mentioned, travel insurance is an economic security blanket, covering costs if something goes wrong. Crisis management and response services, such as Global Rescue, provide medical support, advisory services and evacuation at the point of crisis.
These services, according to Global Rescue President and CEO Dan Richards, should absolutely be part of a student group’s coverage. “The problems that can occur in their most extreme form are life and death,” says Richards. Purchasing travel insurance for your student group is a judgment call, and sometimes it might be worth the economic risk not to buy it. “The bet you shouldn’t be willing to take,” says Richards, “is the one with your life.”
Why Should You Purchase Travel Insurance or Response Services for Your Student Group?
If you’re planning a student trip, travel insurance is a component you need to think about. “Including travel insurance in your school’s risk management plan can be an important step to help mitigate risk,” says Jeff Rutledge, CEO of AIG Travel. A comprehensive insurance plan will assist you with all kinds of concerns, from flight delays that interrupt travel to medical issues that could arise.
While the economic side of travel insurance is important, what is more imperative is the safety and comfort of the students. “If you’re taking a group of minors somewhere, you have a moral obligation to provide for their well-being,” says Richards. “If something were to happen, and you don’t have a plan in place, you’re not going to be effective in responding to whatever the emergency may be.” Crisis response services provide you with people who have medical and security expertise, and who know what to do in dangerous and life threatening situations.
In addition, schools or youth groups that organize student trips have a legal obligation to get coverage. This is called a Duty of Care, and if an institution does not meet that Duty of Care, they could be at risk for litigation if something were to go wrong.
There have only been a few extreme cases where a school or youth organization didn’t take the proper precautions and had to deal with legal issues and settlements. However, it can happen, and it’s a good idea for schools to have some level of protection no matter what kind of trip they are planning. That action plan could ultimately save a student from a harmful disease or assist in a serious physical injury or provide aid in the case of a natural disaster.
For example, a group of 15 students were traveling in South America when over half of the group fell ill from food poisoning. AIG Travel provided medical referrals to local facilities for treatment, monitored the students to ensure proper treatment was received, and then determined the students were medically cleared to continue on the trip.
In another incident, a group of students was in Egypt when the Arab Spring occurred. Global Rescue deployed security personnel and special operations veterans to Egypt to get the students to a safe location and ultimately evacuate them from the country. It’s clear from these cases that a range of things can go wrong, and it’s smart to take all the necessary precautions to avoid dangerous situations and keep student travelers safe, healthy and secure.
Purchasing an Insurance Plan for Your Student Group
Now that you’ve learned a little more about travel insurance and crisis management, it’s time to select a plan that works for your student trip. There is a variety of different plans that vary in coverage.
One of the first things you should do before you even look into insurance is research the destination you want to visit. “Determine whether or not it really is a good idea to take a group of young people there,” says Richards. You need to consider the stability of the country or city, the kinds of activities the students may partake in, and also look at the health profile of the country.
Once you’ve done your research and you’ve determined the destination for your student trip, you should then look into the different kinds of insurance plans and crisis management services you might need. Whether you’re traveling international or staying within the U.S., it’s smart to retain a company like Global Rescue because at the minimum there is a number to call and an expert on the other end should something go wrong. Natural disasters and medical emergencies can happen anywhere, even while traveling within the states.
As far as travel insurance, there is a variety of options with different levels of coverage. There is a large consumer market for travel insurance, and if students and their parents feel more comfortable purchasing individual coverage, that is perfectly fine. As a trip organizer, you can provide them with resources to help them find a plan that works for them.
You can also purchase a plan that covers the specific trip you’re planning and all the student travelers. You want to find “a comprehensive travel insurance plan that includes coverage for trip cancellation and interruption, trip delays, missed connections, lost baggage, medical expenses, emergency medical evacuation and security evacuation,” recommends Rutledge.
Many companies offer an annual plan or a membership, which covers you on all the trips you organize, not just one. Global Rescue offers annual memberships to schools, so there is a standing emergency action plan in place, and you don’t have to purchase a new plan each time your institution organizes a trip.
Peace of Mind
Travel is something that all students should get the chance to experience, and the fear and worry about potential dangers shouldn’t hold them back from exploring the world. A travel insurance policy and emergency services plan give you, your students and their parents peace of mind. These are safety measures you hope you never have to use, but if something does go wrong, you will be thankful you have them.