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September 2008 issue

Agency News
Agency Survey
Market Report
Direction - insurance
Direction - workshops
Special Report
Course Guide

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Protective layer

Insurance may not be the most exciting consideration for clients, but it is necessary, and for agencies, it is another product that they can add to their range of student-oriented services. Jane Vernon Smith finds out what sort of products are tailored exclusively for the study abroad market.

While insurers would argue that insurance cover is a necessary element in the planning of a language travel trip, by no means all language travel agencies currently offer insurance services to their clients. While some may be deterred by the perceived burden of additional administration, others may not have considered the benefits. For still others, as in the case of Ben Chang, Director of UR Edu & Info Co Ltd in Taiwan, this may be because they have not found a policy that they consider satisfactory for their clients’ needs. As Chang explains, he has been offered various packages by different insurers in the past, but they have had obvious drawbacks, such as, for example, if a student needs medical attention, they are limited to using certain specified hospitals. “If we can find an insurance provider who [is] able to conquer this issue, I think that will be perfect,” he says.

Among those that do involve themselves in the sale of insurance, it appears to be a profitable enterprise that also reaps benefits in terms of customer service and peace of mind. Most insurers will pay commission to agents, based on a percentage of the value of the sale. For Henry Caro of the agency, Learning, in Colombia, this amounts to around 20 per cent. “It is good for us,” he comments. And when agents actively promote insurance services, conversion rates can be extremely high. According to Rudolf Ilg of Austrian agency, EFA Sprachreisen, some 80 per cent of clients attending courses in non-EU countries purchase insurance through them.

Among language travel agents canvassed, whether or not they offer insurance themselves, most are in agreement on the need for obtaining cover, and try to educate their clients in this regard. “I always tell…my clients the risk to travel without insurance, and how much it could cost abroad if something happens to them and they don’t have insurance,” relates Paula Camargo of Brazilian agency, London Connexion. Some, like, Prolingue agency in Italy, make it compulsory, as Director, Vito Carbone, reports.

According to Daisuke Itabashi, General Manager of Kinki Nippon Saitama Educational agency in Japan, clients are in any case normally well aware of the need for cover, and the high cost of health care in foreign countries. “Almost all of them will be insured before going to their destinations,” he confirms. Nevertheless, there are indications of a discrepancy between those who need to take out health insurance before travelling (for example to the USA, where potential students must obtain health cover before applying for their visa), and those travelling within the European Union, in particular. When travelling between two EU member states, some may consider health insurance to be redundant in view of their reciprocal agreements for health cover. Some travellers are also reported to rely on airlines to pay out in the event of travel delays and lost baggage.

Many clients and, equally, study abroad agencies, may be overlooking some important aspects of cover that are on offer today from a number of insurance providers – often specialising in our field of business. “Sometimes we realise when talking to [agencies] that the policy they offer does not cover the entire risk,” remarks Maria Renkwitz, Sales Manager with responsibility for Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania at German insurer, CareMed. Furthermore, she points out that some agents appear to underestimate the high cost of medical treatment for patients in some popular destinations. “When mentioned to them that one day in an American hospital can cost US$2,000, you usually get a surprised reaction,” she reports.

There are other widely held misconceptions. According to Elaine Pink, Marketing & Development Manager at UK insurance broker, Gibbs Denley, which operates the website,, “Whilst in [the UK] the NHS (National Health Service) won’t turn a patient away, [it is] becoming increasingly active in pursuing payment for treatment provided. Most big hospitals now employ specific staff to deal with this,” she notes. It is, therefore, important to be well informed about requirements for the specific market to which a student is planning to travel, and course-u-can, which is licensed to use the Studentguard trademark in the UK, tailors its product to the needs of inbound students to that country.

As Daintry Springer, Vice-President, Marketing & Communications at Canadian insurance broker, Ingle, comments, “Travellers and students need to pay attention to all aspects of their coverage, and read their policies carefully. Insurance should not be left to the last minute.” Companies normally offer a choice of options. In some cases, as with CareMed, “The organisation [educator or agency] can decide what kind of policy they need, and can combine the single components – medical coverage only or also including other benefits, like luggage insurance, indemnity insurance, third-party liability, etc.”

According to Pink, the most claims occur under the cancellation, curtailment, medical expenses and personal effects sections of the policy, so it is a good idea to pay close attention to their exact terms. In order to make the right choice of policy, there are a number of general points that should be taken into account. Renkwitz’s advice is first to make sure that risks that could lead to very expensive claims are covered. “Any kind of insurance should first of all save from ruin,” she underlines. “Therefore, the… risks that lead to very expensive claims should be covered. This would mean that long-term inpatient stays in hospitals, medical evacuation to the home country and repatriation of remains, for example, should be covered. Also, third-party liability claims can be very costly, especially in the USA.”

In terms of medical cover, Springer distinguishes between “medically necessary” and “emergency” services. Ingle has now introduced a wider range of comprehensive policies for clients offering cover on a medically necessary, rather than emergency, basis. “These new policies are more appropriate for colleges, universities and other institutions where the median age is a bit higher and where more of the students require ongoing medical care,” she points out.
Also important for young travellers, according to Renkwitz, is “a worldwide, cost-free multilingual service that ensures immediate help for the insured when it is needed” – something that purchasers do not always think about in advance. It also pays to take care over the period of cover. Canada-based StudentGuard Health Insurance is a specialist provider for international students, and Vice-President, Maryann Brown, points out that its policies are flexible in terms of cover period, and may also be extended at any time from anywhere in the world. This is in contrast to many providers, which do not allow for extension of cover while the student is outside their home country. According to Pink, it is normally best for students to take cover only for the exact period during which they will be away from home. So, if, for example, they are booking a one-year programme, during which they will be returning home for a break at Christmas, it would be advisable to purchase cover for the two periods separately, she counsels.

As students now travel with an increasing number of electronic gadgets, such as laptops and i-pods, cover for valuables is something else to look into. Springer points out that valuables are hard to cover with travel insurance. “Baggage cover under travel insurance is usually only meant for one’s personal effects and not for laptops or jewellery,” she notes. Nevertheless, it is worth looking at the small print, since some insurers do provide cover, even if they do not openly promote the fact, and the amount of any excess should also be noted. Under CareMed, these items are covered up to a value of US$750. “The coverage limit seems to be quite low,” comments Renkwitz. “However, since insurers experience many claims [for] stolen electronic devices and are also confronted with much fraud in this regard, the policy has to be restricted.”

Springer also warns that if a student has any pre-existing medical condition, then they will need to check that it will be covered under their policy. Furthermore, some policies limit coverage in the case of a second or further claim for a condition already claimed for under the policy. “It’s not all about price,” Springer underlines. “Whether the customer chooses to purchase from us or not, we remind everyone to look at more than just the price – be a responsible consumer and know what you’re buying.”

Collaborative business

Canadian insurance broker, Ingle Insurance, offers its products and services in more than 30 language schools, in addition to many other organisations. Business has increased over the last year, as the company has placed more focus on what it acknowledges to be an “important segment” of the market, says Daintry Springer, Vice-President of Marketing & Communications. “How we work with schools is to create a customised website, with their custom plan, links to a physician and direct pay network, and other tools and resources, including a currency converter, travel and health resources, etc.” she says. “Our business strategy is not just to sell but to educate, and we see this strategy working.”

Springer adds that a portion of the proceeds of each policy sold is returned to the seller as a marketing fee. In addition to the fee received, she points out that sellers also recognise the value in the extra services the company provides, including “streamlined administration, information available via the web, product flexibility, custom materials, and access to all the options on the market.”

Developments such as this have made it much easier for the language travel industry to tap into the insurance market. On the other hand, legislative changes that are due to come into effect in the UK in January 2009 will mean that anyone wishing to sell insurance in that country will need to be directly authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA), or be acting as an appointed representative of a registered insurance provider. While this could put a dampener on both new and existing business for language schools and agents, has developed a new policy, Studentguard+, that will obviate the difficulties. Elaine Pink at UK insurance broker, Gibbs Denley, which operates the website, explains that the school takes out a policy, which then provides cover automatically for its students. According to Pink, Studentguard+ is proving very popular with UK language schools.

The decision about which insurer to work with is one that should be undertaken only after some research. Organisations should make sure that premiums are realistically calculated, according to programme type, the age of participants, length of stay and travel destination. Maria Renkwitz of German insurer, CareMed International Travel Insurance, says, “Insurance agents who attract [clients] with low-cost insurance usually change their insurer quite often. Low premiums for high-quality policies cannot work out, because claim losses naturally occur, and these will automatically lead to a premium increase after a short time.”

“A fire destroyed the house of a high school participant’s host family. All personal belongings, documents and the return flight tickets of the insured got destroyed. We received a call from the insured’s mother, asking us for help. The same day, CareMed Assist helped to obtain emergency cash for the insured. The insurer paid US$1,500 and replaced the airline ticket. The insured could continue the stay abroad in a new host family.”
Annette Gaul, General Manager, CareMed International Travel Insurance, Germany

“A student was attacked in the street and suffered serious facial injuries. The insurers paid UK£6,040 (US$12,069) which covered the cost of flying two family members to the UK, accommodation, transport costs, course fees and the hospital bill.”
Elaine Pink, Marketing & Development Manager, Gibbs Denley, UK

“An 18-year old student in the US developed sudden paralysis. They were taken to local hospital; airlifted to a second, larger hospital. The second hospital diagnosed an infectious disease – airlifted to third hospital with infectious disease unit. Multiple tests, including CAT scans, MRI scans, various treatments, including plasmapheresis. Mother travelled from home country to hospital; accommodation and travel expenses paid, student airlifted home, mother returned home with student. All expenses paid.”
Maryann Brown, StudentGuard Health Insurance, Canada

“A student came to Canada for an ESL programme at one of the schools insured by Ingle. He developed a brain tumour and received extensive care, coordinated and covered by the insurance. Once his condition was stabilised, the insurer paid for his trip home. Ingle was able to insure him again when he came back to Canada for further studies.”
Brian Cox, Director of Operations, Ingle Insurance, Canada
Contact any advertiser in the this issue now

The following language schools, associations and accommodation providers advertised in the latest edition of Language Travel Magazine. If you would like more information on any of these advertisers, tick the relevant boxes, fill out your details and send.





Britannia Student
Sara's New York

English Australia  
International House
      World Organisation  
Languages Canada /
      Langues Canada  
MEI~Relsa Ireland  
Perth Education
Quality English  

Trinity College

Student Guard

Internet Advantage

Business Telecom

Malta Tourism

English Australia  
      House World
MEI~Relsa Ireland  
Quality English  

Bond University  
Geos Oceania 
      New Zealand) 
Griffith University  
Hawthorn English
      Language Centres  
La Trobe University
Language Studies
      (Australia, Canada,
Pacific Gateway
Perth Education
Sun Pacific College
TAFE NSW English
      Language Centres  
University of
University of
      College Australia  

Cultura Wien  

Ceran Lingua
      (Belgium, France,
      Spain, UK)

Bodwell College  
College of New
East Coast School
      of Languages
Edutour Homestay
      Assocs Ltd  
English Bay
English Language
      Training College
Global Village
      (Australia, Canada,
Hansa Language
ITTTI Vancouver  
Language Studies
National School
      of Languages  
Red Leaf Student
      Program and Tours  
Richmond School
      District #38  
Saint Mary's
Stewart College
      of Languages  

Mandarin House  

      Panamericano de
      Idiomas (CPI)  

Language Explorer

Karlov College  

      House - IH Cairo  

      (UK, USA) 
Bell International
      (Malta, UK)  
Bournville College
      of Further
Camp Beaumont  
      Language Home
      (Argentina, Australia,
      Canada, England,
      France, Germany,
      Greece, Hawaii,
      Ireland, Italy, Malta,
      New Zealand,Russia,
      Scotland, Spain,
      Sweden, USA)  
Hampstead School
      of English  
International House
International House
      World Organisation  
InterNexus Centre
      for Language
IP International
      Projects GmbH
      (England, France,
      Germany, Spain)    
LAL Language and
      (England, Canada,
      Cyprus, Ireland,
      South Africa, Spain,
      Switzerland, USA)
Kaplan Aspect 
      (Australia, Canada,
      Ireland, Malta,
      New Zealand,
      South Africa, UK,
Malvern House
      College London  
Oxford Intensive
      School of English 
      (Australia, France,
      Germany, Spain,
      UK, USA)
Prime Education  
Scanbrit School of
St Giles Colleges  
      (Canada, UK, USA)   
Study Group 
      (Australia, Canada,
      England, France,
      Germany, Ireland,
      Italy, New Zealand,
      South Africa, Spain,
Twin Group
      (Ireland, UK)  
University of Essex -
Wimbledon School
      of English  

Alliance Française
      Paris Ile de France
      (France, Spain, UK)  
Home Language
Silc - Séjours
Université de
      Paris Sorbonne  

Carl Duisberg
      (England, Germany)
Inlingua Berlin  
International House
      Berlin - Prolog  
      International /
      Languages Plus 
      (Australia, Canada,
      France, Germany,
      Italy, Malta, Spain,

Prime Speech Power
      Language School  

Alpha College of
Centre of English
      (Ireland, UK)     
Dublin City
      Language Services  
Grafton College  
ISI - International
      Study Institute
MEI~Relsa Ireland
Portobello School  
Swan Training

      Language School  
EC English
      Language Centre 
      (England, Malta,
      South Africa, USA)
IELS - Institute of
      English Language
Malta Tourism

Unique New
      Zealand Education  

EAC Language
      Centres and Activity
      Camps (England,

Cape Studies  
EC Cape Town  
Eurocentres Cape
Good Hope
Interlink School
      of Languages  
LAL Cape Town  
Shane Global
      Language Centres -
      Cape Town  

Camino Barcelona
      Spanish school  
Esade Executive
Escuela de Espanol
la Brisa S.L.  
Idiomas Sí!  
inlingua Las Palmas
      de Gran Canaria  
International House
      Sevilla - Clic  
Malaca Instituto -
      Club Hispanico SL  
Wired Spain  

EF Language
      Colleges Ltd 
      (Australia, Canada,
      China, Ecuador,
      England, France,
      Germany, Ireland,
      Italy, Malta,
      New Zealand,
      Russia, Scotland,
      Spain, USA)
      (Australia, Canada,
      Germany, Italy,
      Japan, New Zealand,
      Russia, Sain,
      Switzerland, USA) 

ALCC - American
      Language &
ELS Language
Global Immersions
University of
      California Riverside  
University of
      California San
University of
      South Florida  
Virginia Polytechnic
      Institute & State
Zoni Language
      (Canada, USA)