In the voluntary benefits business for more than a decade, Nashville's Karen Quigley knows a tidal change when she sees one. With carriers increasingly entering the core voluntary market, and health care reform looming large, Quigley knew it was time to adapt.

That's when she found vacation benefit company Rovia and its DreamTrips Vacation Membership product. Rovia recently began partnering with benefit brokers. Quigley sells the vacation benefit through her company, Wellness Vacations.

"In comparison to the other products that I sell on a voluntary basis, this one is extremely easy, and as far as servicing, once that employee is signed up for the vacation benefit, they simply go into the website and [Rovia] takes it from there," she says.

For an annual membership and monthly service fee (either employee-paid, employer-paid or employer-subsidized), Rovia puts together a wide variety of discounted vacation packages ranging from weekend getaways to luxury vacations hosted by a Rovia employee who coordinates activities on the trip.

An insurance license is not required to sell the vacation benefit product, and Quigley finds the commissions to be comparable to most other voluntary benefits.

"I'm so excited about it," she says. "It's by far one of the best voluntary benefits that I've seen, and I just think right now is the perfect time" to sell it.


Stress reliever

Whether it's intentional or not, many employees feel their employer doesn't want them to take a vacation or are nervous to ask for the time off. Quigley points out that when an employer offers the vacation benefit, they're sending the message that they want their employees to actually take a vacation.

With stress being the driver of so many other conditions that are often targeted by traditional wellness programs - diabetes, weight, smoking - taking a vacation is a way to lessen that load, she says.

Take the following stats from one DreamTrips brochure: Because Americans don't use an average of four days of their vacation time, according to WebMD, it would appear that employers gain an estimated $76 billion.

However, Dr. Mel Borins points out in "Go Away, Just for the Health of It," that worker burnout leads employers to lose as much as $7 for every dollar they get when an employee doesn't take a vacation.

"It's counter-intuitive. You would just automatically think if my employees continue to work, I'm getting basically free labor because they're not using their vacation," says Fritz Wolchik, Rovia's director of corporate sales. "How could that be a bad thing? But the statistics are there. You lose productivity because people get burned out."


The forgotten benefit

Quigley calls the vacation benefit "the original wellness program" that a lot of employers have simply forgotten about. "My mission is to educate them on the value of getting their employees to really take vacations," she says.

What Quigley likes about DreamTrips is how it makes the planning process of a vacation virtually stress-free, since the trips are already put together and the pricing has already been shopped.

At first she thought, "Why wouldn't someone just go to a website like Travelocity or Orbitz to save on a vacation?" But when she went to make the comparison, "I was the one having to go back and forth between Travelocity and all the other sites and by the time I'd get back to the better price on one, it was already gone," says Quigley.

The benefit is an "immediate morale booster," she says. "Let's face it, when you come back from a vacation, you've let off some of that stress and you're more productive. Even when you're getting ready and thinking about a vacation you're in a better mood."

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