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Sandals Resorts and Zika

Discussion in 'Hotels' started by LauraE85, Mar 22, 2017.

  1. LauraE85

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    In January 2016 while at a Sandals resort in the Bahamas, my husband and I booked another Sandals vacation in Barbados for January 2017. This was prior to the Zika epidemic affecting women of childbearing of age who are planning a pregnancy. As we were planning on starting a family soon, in July of 2016 we decided to move our trip up to September 2016 so that we could go before getting pregnant as at that time the World Health Organization (WHO) and CDC recommendations were that pregnant women should not travel to areas with Zika. Between July and September, new information emerged and the WHO and CDC changed their recommendations such that anyone planning a pregnancy in the next 6 months avoid travel to areas with Zika. After speaking with my OBGYN, she strongly recommended that we cancel the vacation and wrote a letter to this effect. Luckily, we did have trip insurance. We canceled the trip 10 days before we were supposed to go under the "cancel for any reason up to 1 day before" clause of the policy. We submitted the appropriate paperwork including the letter from my doctor. I contacted both the travel insurance company as well as Sandals to find out what the exact benefit was (we were aware that we would not get our money back since it was canceled so late but would get a travel voucher to Sandals), specifically I wanted to know if the vouchers were transferable as we planned to give the trip to one of our parents or for how long the vouchers were good for. No one at the travel insurance company (TripMate) or Sandals could provide us with this information. In December after many phone calls, we finally got the travel certificates which are non-transferable and good for only one year from date of issue. Given that we are trying to get pregnant, and obviously would be pregnant for 9 months these travel certificates are useless as they expire in December 2017. We contacted Sandals to see if they would either make an exception due to Zika and allow the certificates to be transferred given that the trip is paid for in full (from our perspective what difference does it make to them who uses the trip?) or extend the expiration by a year or 2 so that we could have a child and go at a later date when it is safe (Many other companies have made exceptions due to Zika. For example our Jet Blue flight that we canceled for this same trip gave us a certificate good for one year that can be used by anyone, we did not have insurance on the Jet Blue tickets but the company made an exception due to Zika). Sandals has not offered any other alternative options essentially leaving us with no other choice than to forfeit our money. We are not even asking for a refund, just that a reasonable alternative be presented in light of Zika and the ramifications that Zika can have on infants. Based on what Sandals has offered, the fact that we had travel insurance is completely useless given the reason that we canceled. When I initially contacted Sandals regarding canceling due to Zika I was told that this would be no problem given that we had travel insurance, leaving the impression that there would be an alternative option that would be workable.

    Do you have any suggestions? I found emails for some of the executives at Sandals on your website however when I attempted to email them the emails were no longer active and the email was immediately returned to me.

    Thanks for your help!
     
    #1
  2. Patina

    Patina Moderator
    Staff Member Advocate

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    Has your trip insurance refused to reimburse you? It sounds like your policy allows coverage for Zika-effected areas or the cancel for any reason clause kicks in. I am unsure why you are involving Sandals at this point.

    Have I misunderstood the situation and your trip insurance policy is NOT covering you for either travel to Zika-effected areas or cancel for any reason? If that is the case then one option may be to see if Sandals will allow you to use the credit at another one of their locations. We will try getting updated contact information for you...... @technomage1, is there someone specific on the forum I should make this request?

    Be aware that you should not collect from the insurance company if you are planning on using the credit as that would be considered insurance fraud.
     
    #2
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  3. LauraE85

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    The trip insurance sent out the travel certificates after processing our claim. The travel certificates have a specific dollar amount that can be used at either a Sandals or Beaches Resort, the certificates also state that they expire one year from date or issue and are non-transferable. We initially contacted the insurance company to inquire if an exception could be made due to zika for either the one year expiration or the fact that the certificates are non-transferable. TripMate(the insurance company) informed us that they simply process the claims and send the certificates but that Sandals dictates the rules on the travel certificates and that any exceptions would need to be granted by Sandals, which is why we have involved Sandals. Unfortunately all of the islands where Sandals (or Beaches for that matter) are affected by Zika.

    We have not collected any money from the insurance company, only the travel certificates that given the stipulations on them we are unable to use due to concerns about zika and trying to get pregnant. We have never asked for our money back, simply that we be given more time to use the certificates due to zika or be allowed to give the trip to someone else since it is paid for in full.
     
    #3
  4. technomage1

    Staff Member Forum Director

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    Anyone who needs contacts - or wants to let us know of contacts that bounce - please fill out a request at http://elliott.org/help/. It will be sent to our research team.

    Thank you.
     
    #4
  5. Patina

    Patina Moderator
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    Thanks!
     
    #5
  6. Patina

    Patina Moderator
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    Okay, got it. I never heard of an insurance company giving out vouchers rather than reimbursing you but I am not very familiar with trip insurance beyond the one time I filed a claim. Others will be here later today to offer better advice regarding the standard practices of trip insurance.

    Does your policy state you will receive vouchers rather than a cash reimbursement? I would re-read your policy very carefully to find where it states the company can give you time limited vouchers in place of a cash reimbursement.

    Use the Help tab at the top of the forum to request updated contacts for Sandals.
     
    #6
  7. jsn55

    Staff Member Advocate

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    Laura, I had the same questions as Patina, so thanks for making this clear. I too know little about travel insurance except this: insurance coverages differ in almost every single aspect, even policies from the same company.

    I agree with her, first thing to do is read your policy very carefully. It's possible that it states that you'd get a percentage of your money back from the insurance, and someone decided that you'd rather have the full value in the form of a voucher. Your case is complex enough so that you should be dealing a couple of steps above customer service.

    However, I would still start with them after you read your policy and know exactly what coverage you purchased. If there are parts not understandable, call them for an explanation. End your letter with a request to "please escalate if necessary". Compose a concise, polite email to the insurance company and be clear about what you are expecting. List alternatives if you like, but keep it simple.

    It's possible that this is the coverage offered by an agreement between Sandals and the insurance company. In that case, you can go after Sandals for an extension, or ask them to create transferable vouchers.

    Please come back to us at any step if you need guidance. Wait a week after the first letter and if no response, send to the first executive in our Company Contacts (they should be updated by then, thanks for letting us know). Always wait a week before moving on to the next name. I think your problem is a matter of nobody really understanding what's going on, so once you get it clarified, someone should be able to solve the problem. Good luck, and please keep us posted.
     
    #7
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  8. Grandma

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    What can I say? I just checked the TripMate site, and a couple of review sites. Ouch.
    (Btw BBB is interesting: 6 negative reviews, 1 neutral, 2 positive- composite 4star/A+????)

    Here is explanation for the vouchers:
    http://www.travelinsurancerating.org/travel-insurance-companies-tripmate

    Quote:
    Many of the plans that they offer are combination plans that have two components;
    pre-departure cancellation "waiver" plan that is usually not underwritten by a licensed insurance carrier but rather by the tour operator .In some cases it's advertised as "cancel for any reason" however, instead of a cash payment for your loss they offer a travel voucher that is only good for a specific period of time and which can only be used with the tour operator...
     
    #8
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2017
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  9. Neil

    Neil Moderator
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    That is the problem with CFAR insurance- first most do not offer 100% refund and second, some issue travel vouchers instead of cash.

    It sounds like that is the type of policy you bought, one that doesn't offer cash back.

    I am afraid that Sandals has nothing to do with this- it is the policy that you bought that is at fault.
     
    #9
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  10. LauraE85

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    Sorry for the delay on this, I did got get the email notification that there were messages as I was expecting. Thanks everyone for all of your input. I will start with clarification on the benefits of the policy with TripMate and go from there. I will be back if I have difficulty. THanks again.
     
    #10
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  11. LauraE85

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    Thank you for this advice. I have fully re-read the insurance policy. There is only one small part that discusses the "cancel for any reason" clause, which is what I canceled under. It is vague and does not indicate that specific benefit. Below is the only paragraph in the policy that speaks to the cancel for any reason:

    "Cancel For Any Reason Waiver When you purchase this travel protection plan at or before the final payment due date, you also receive the Unique Vacations Cancellation Waiver Benefit that allows you to cancel your Unique Vacations travel arrangements up to the day of departure for any reason. With this Unique Vacations Cancellation Waiver, your land cancellation penalty will be refunded in Unique Vacations travel certificates, with the balance of the refund made in cash or credit card credit. Any benefit payable under this Cancellation Waiver will be reduced by the amount of any cancellation benefits paid or payable by the Unique Vacations Travel Protection Plan or any other insurance plan providing Trip Cancellation benefits. This Cancellation Waiver does not cover air arrangements or any option services such as sightseeing, spa service and private transfers. Please Note: This travel protection plan may not be purchased after you have made your final payment for your Trip. This Cancellation Waiver Benefit is provided by Unique Vacations and is not an insurance benefit underwritten by United States Fire Insurance Company"

    So from here I want to contact TripMate in writing and ask for clarification as to why we received vouchers vs a refund and why the vouchers have a one year expiration date and are non-transferable?

    I just want to make sure I an asking them for the correct information before I send the letter.

    Thanks again for all of your help.
     
    #11
  12. Brijesh

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    I think spending time on getting fruitful ramification from Sandals is no longer suggested because if there is no regulations from Government body, one will never get reasonable alternatives based on moral values. I would like to rate your travel insurance provider "customer friendly" as Zika was never been expected while selling cover to you but despite that, they offered you cancellation. At the time of Zika virus infection in the UK, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) said, some of the insurers will offer you cover if the cancellation is due to the advice of the medical examiner (Read more).
     
    #12
  13. Neil

    Neil Moderator
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    Please read the details in the policy because they usually state the terms of the vouchers.
     
    #13
  14. LauraE85

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    I just wanted to thank everyone for their advice and information. I recently emailed the 1st contact for TripMate regarding the issue and was told that they only send out the vouchers but do not set the limitations (I had checked the policy multiple times and no where in the detailed policy did it state what the limitations on the vouchers would be). The representative from TripMate offered to reach out to Unique Vacations (Sandals/Beaches) and Unique Vacations are going to honor a transfer of the vouchers! Thanks again for everyone's help with this!
     
    #14
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  15. Carrie Livingston

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    Great news @LauraE85 and thanks for letting us know!
     
    #15
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