It was set. The reader would travel with family to St. John over Christmas, staying at the Westin St. John Resort Villas, using the timeshare of a third party purchased through Vacation Candy, a trip broker.
Then hurricanes Irma and Maria happened. The resort will remain closed through 2017.
She had purchased trip cancellation coverage, but was surprised to learn that it would not cover her loss.
Her travel insurance was with CSA Travel Protection (recently rebranded as Generali Global Assistance). A clause in the policy noted that trips will be reimbursed when water, electric, sewage or gas services are cut off, but “we will only pay benefits for losses occurring within 15 calendar days following the onset of the service interruption.” Her trip was coming too late.
“Travel insurance is designed to cover the immediate impact of these catastrophes,” said Bob Chambers, vice president of operations for Generali Global Assistance. Because hotels and homeowners carry insurance to cover losses — including loss of income — at some point, “it is not ethical for an owner to retain the funds of a renter,” he said.
Hotels often offer refunds in situations like this, said Steven Benna, marketing specialist with online travel insurance comparison site Squaremouth.
The most common reason claims are denied after a hurricane, according to Benna? The policy was purchased after a storm was named.
“Travel insurance only covers unforeseen events; once a storm is named, even if it’s just a tropical storm, it becomes foreseeable,” he said. (This was not the case with our reader, who purchased her lodging and travel insurance in March; Irma was named in August.)
The upshot: Before you buy, read any travel insurance policy closely, with a skeptical eye. Most policies have a 10- to 14-day review period; if you don’t like what you read, you can get a full refund, Benna said.
As for our reader, Vacation Candy secured a refund through the owner of the timeshare.
Send your questions or tips to Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org.