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The Right Coverage for Your Travel Agent Business

Content provided by: Chris Buseman & 360 Coverage Pros

Choosing between E&O Insurance or General Liability comes down to your business needs. Learn what each offers and find the right fit for you.

Travel agents send their clients around the world every day and tend to focus on exposures further from home. There is a different world of risk, much closer to home, perhaps less considered with issues like a client slip and fall in the offices. Being fully insured is an essential strategy for mitigating total risk. Complete coverage for your business could include buying travel agent E&O or general liability insurance. But how do you know which coverage to buy or when to get both?

Travel Risks Unbound

For many people, being a travel agent is a dream profession. Who wouldn’t want to get paid to learn about exotic travel locations, to send clients all over the world? That’s the rose-colored view of the industry. Here’s the clear-eyed picture: Every time you send a client on a trip, you subject yourself to risk.  Here are some of the major ones:

  • Failing to provide promised services. When travel clients fail to receive a service they paid for or perceive should have been included and sustain a financial loss as a result, they might sue you to get their money back.
  • Not honoring agreed-upon pricing. You may sell a service at one price, but a service provider might insist on charging a higher fee. When clients refuse to pay the difference, they might be unable to receive the promised service. This might leave them stranded mid-trip and angry enough to sue.
  • Misrepresenting tour or trip details. A travel agent might misconstrue a hotel, attraction, or experience. Expectation gaps can easily result in client dissatisfaction and litigation.
  • Failing to discover and disclose hazards. As a travel agent, you’re not liable for the negligent acts of your suppliers. But you are required to fully disclose the known hazards and risks of the travel suppliers you recommend. If you don’t and a client suffers a personal or financial injury while traveling, you might find yourself in legal hot water.
  • Not sharing details. You’re obligated to inform your clients about travel documents, limits on reservation changes, foreign-country entry requirements, and the availability of travel insurance. If you don’t and the omission results in travel disruption, financial loss, or personal injury, legal problems might ensue.

The above risks involve mistakes you make while carrying out your professional travel agent duties. But your risks don’t end there. Whenever clients visit your office, even if it’s in your home, you may be legally liable if they get hurt or injured. You also have your office equipment exposure (physical damage, data loss, and other hazards) and publishing activities. For example, if you run ads or publish articles that violate a third party’s copyright, you might get sued. The same is true if you publish content about others that harms their professional reputation.

How to protect yourself against these risks? First, educate yourself about the activities that subject you to the most risk. Once you’re aware of them, avoid them if possible. If you can’t, act with prudence to minimize incidents. Second, mitigate your exposures by transferring them to an insurance company. Two of the major insurance policies for this purpose are travel agent E&O insurance and general liability insurance. Both policies are forms of liability insurance, but they focus on different risks. Let’s compare the two to learn which you should buy.

Travel Agent E&O Insurance

Whenever one of your clients has a negative experience during a trip you designed, sold, or advised on, they may file litigation or complaints against you. Whether a problem arises from getting injured or being stranded in a remote location, you may be financially responsible for indemnifying their loss. Maintaining an errors and omissions insurance policy can help prevent you from paying out-of-pocket for attorney’s fees, settlements, or damages. When litigation or complaints are filed against you, your insurer will:

  • Provide a defense attorney(s) every step of the way
  • Claims adjusters to handle your case
  • Expert witnesses to support your decisions and adherence to duty of care
  • Payment for court administrative expenses, records, and other documents.
  • Expenses for legal settlements judgments and damages against you should you lose your case in court.

The total cost to resolve your case can easily reach six figures or more. Without insurance, a travel agent or agency is creating a situation in which they are gravely exposing their livelihood, leaving a business and personal assets vulnerable to out-of-pocket expenses.

What doesn’t E&O insurance cover? Here are some expenses it won’t reimburse you for:

  • Employee lawsuits. If you have one or more employees or independent contractors and get into a dispute about wrongful termination or harassment, you may be at risk. You’ll need employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) to cover those claims.
  • Crimes and other purposeful wrongdoing. If you or an employee or independent contractor violate a law or business regulation and then get sued or fined, your E&O insurance may not cover you.
  • Misuse of intellectual property or libel/slander. If you use another company’s intellectual property without permission or make false claims about a third party, your E&O policy may not protect you unless it includes specific additional coverages related to personal injury (included in your E&O coverage through 360 Coverage Pros).
  • Work-related injuries or illnesses. If you have someone working for you and they get hurt or sick as a direct result of performing their job duties, E&O insurance has no bearing. Instead, your workers’ compensation insurance, if you have it, may provide coverage.
  • 3rd party data breaches. If doing your job results in a data breach that harms clients or other third parties, then your E&O insurance might offer some protection. But if the breach didn’t result from a professional activity—for example, a hacker broke into your system and stole your client’s personally identifiable information—then you may be at risk. (Check your policy document to verify how it handles data breaches.) For that, you’ll need a dedicated cyber liability insurance policy. Thankfully, 360 Coverage Pros offers extensive Cyber Liability and Data Breach Coverage.
  • Customer injuries while on your premises. As mentioned earlier, every time a client visits your office, you’re legally at risk if the third party gets injured. Travel Agent E&O Insurance from 360 Coverages Pros offers an optional medical payments endorsement which provides coverage for this type of risk. Additional general liability or business owner’s policies may provide more extensive coverages depending on the travel agent or agency’s needs.

As you can see, E&O insurance offers valuable protection for travel agents and agencies but may leave some exposures to question. Let’s take a look at another policy type that can plug the gaps: general liability insurance.

General liability insurance

General liability insurance protects insureds against third-party litigation resulting from personal or business injuries (and property damage) you or an employee caused. Many policies cover legal expenses resulting from claims related to:

  • Bodily injury: When someone trips and falls on your property and requires medical treatment
  • Property damage: when you or a team member accidentally damages a third party’s property
  • Advertising injury: When your advertising defames someone or another company
  • Copyright infringement: When you use someone else’s intellectual property without permission
  • Reputational harm: When something you say in public or publish on the internet tarnishes a third party’s good name

What doesn’t general liability insurance cover? Although this form of insurance is highly versatile, it may have some gaps of its. Here are some of the major losses it won’t pay for:

  • Property damage or injuries you (or a team member) cause while driving a vehicle for business. For this, you will need commercial auto insurance or hired and non-owned auto coverage. This particular coverage is included with your travel agent/agency E&O policy through 360 Coverage Pros.
  • Work-related employee injuries and illnesses. As with E&O insurance, general liability coverage will not protect you from these costs. For that, you’ll need workers’ compensation insurance.
  • Host Liquor Liability. When alcohol and client entertainment intermingle, bodily injury and property damage are always possible as a result. This particular coverage is included with your travel agent/agency E&O policy through 360 Coverage Pros.
  • Damage to your own business property. If something happens to your office equipment or an office building you own, general liability insurance will be of no help. You’ll need commercial property insurance, also known as a business owner’s policy.
  • Illegal acts. When you violate the law, don’t expect your general liability insurance to bail you out.
  • Professional negligence. If you make a mistake or fail to act in a reasonably prudent manner as a travel agent that results in client harm, your general liability insurance won’t help you. This is what travel agent E&O insurance is for.

As with E&O insurance, general liability insurance covers a broad range of risks. In fact, it covers so many that most agents consider it an essential purchase. If that’s the case, which insurance should you buy: E&O or general liability?

E&O Insurance vs. General Liability Insurance

Most travel agents face two types of risks: those created by the performance of their professional services (professional negligence) and those that result from general business operations. An example of the former is developing an itinerary that falls apart mid-trip because of poor travel supplier selection or the perception that another equally prudent professional travel advisor could have better organized a trip. An example of the latter is not shoveling your office steps during winter months, sparking a nasty client fall. All travel agents will need insurance to cover their professional mistakes. But they’ll also need insurance to protect them against incidents arising from client visits and perceived negligence.

You’ll also need general liability insurance if you do a lot of advertising and content publishing. So if you’re highly involved with internet advertising and social-media posting, you’ll definitely want to consider general liability protection.

What if you typically meet with clients at a coffee shop, run an online agency/service, and never run ads or make social-media posts? Then you might be able to dispense with a general liability policy, especially if paying for it would be a financial hardship.

Even if you rarely meet with clients at your location and do not advertise or publish on the internet, you still might benefit from having general liability insurance. That’s because you never know when you’ll need to meet with a client in your office. And you may have an unexpected opportunity to promote your business on the internet. Wouldn’t it be better to have protection in place for when unexpected opportunities occur? That way, you won’t be tempted to engage in risky activities without an insurance safety net.

If you lack the funds to purchase both types of insurance, consider getting E&O insurance first. Then when more money becomes available, add general liability protection. The reason? The former addresses liability exposures that are core to being a travel agent; you simply can’t avoid them. The latter addresses risks you might not face in your business prior to expansion and bringing on additional resources.

In short, to protect your business, buy E&O insurance as soon as possible. If you already have it, make sure to renew it each year. But if funds are tight, dispense with general liability coverage as long as you don’t meet with clients in your office or do internet advertising or social media publishing. Finally, if you have the money, purchase both policies for the ultimate protection and peace of mind.

What to Look for in E&O Insurer

Given the importance of protecting your travel business against client lawsuits and the perception of negligence, it’s crucial to pick an insurer that will stand behind you. Here are some things to consider:

  • Easy, online application processes with an instant certificate of insurance issuance
  • Competitively priced coverage from an insurance provider with a presence at professional travel conferences and industry events
  • Access to a 24/7 risk management hotline and attorney to course-correct potential incidents before they escalate into litigation against you
  • Best-in-class customer support
  • Established carrier strength with at least “A” (Excellent) ratings from insurance analysts like A.M. Best
  • Comprehensive coverage for your business name and all employees or independent contractors working for you
  • Risk management content to promote safer business practices

If you’re looking for an E&O insurance provider who meets the above criteria, consider 360 Coverage Pros. We offer a strong value proposition for travel agents and agency owners: experience serving travel professionals, comprehensive protection, highly rated carriers and a convenient online shopping platform. If you’re paying too much for your current policy or are in the market for your first policy, check out your options at 360 Coverage Pros.

360 Coverage Pros offers Errors and Omissions (E&O) insurance programs for travel agents, travel agencies, tour operators, and meeting & event planners. Coverage is available for as low as $29.33 per month. learn more, visit our website. Travel agents can also schedule a one-on-one consultation with the Program Manager.

Content provided by: Chris Buseman & 360 Coverage Pros

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