Global movement is booming. According to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), international tourist arrivals reached 1.4 billion at the end of 2018: two years ahead of forecasts. The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) predicts a rise of more than 6% in corporate travel spend this year. And UNWTO anticipates that, by 2030, five million people will be crossing international borders for leisure, business or other purposes - every single day.
But what are the trends shaping the assistance needs of international health and travel insurance policyholders in this travel landscape? Here are three of them.
Anxiety is everywhere
Annual increases in trips to traditional destinations like the US are being outstripped by those to South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. Corporate assignments overseas are increasingly synonymous with a risky cocktail of sub-standard medical care, inadequate infrastructure and unexpected health and security threats. And even traditionally safe global destinations are throwing up unpredictable risks.
No surprise then that the globally mobile are worrying more than ever about their travels and international assignments.
According to the GBTA, more than half of business travellers feel that, nowadays, any destination could be high-risk, almost half are worried about terrorist attacks abroad, and over 20% classify North American and Western European countries as only “somewhat safe”.
At the same time, the Association of Corporate Travel Executives reports that a third of travel managers are seeing a rise in enquiries about business traveller safety.
Meanwhile, Permanxiety is set to become the world’s new shared social experience. It describes the high levels of worry felt by today’s travellers - about everything from Trumpism to technology, terrorism to racial tension and culture wars to climate change.
Mobile connectivity is king
How wrong tech giants were back in the 1970’s, when they dismissed the desire for computers in every home. According to GSMA Intelligence, there are now more mobile devices in the world than people. And the 7.2 billion devices already used around the globe are multiplying a lot faster than we are.
It’s no secret that we’re hooked on our mobile connectivity. We’re using mobile devices for everything from tracking our partners to forecasting the weather, and even measuring our heart health. But they are also playing an important part in preparing, informing and protecting individuals living and working abroad.
Organisations with globally mobile workforces are giving their people access to mobile apps that offer access to complete online travel risk management programmes, worldwide. Often this incorporates real-time medical and security intelligence and alerts, risk mitigation and integrated global assistance: all available at the swipe of a screen.
By providing location-based monitoring, check-in and tracking tools, mobile technology is also giving employers a birds’ eye view of their global staff and assets in relation to threats on the ground; enabling them to locate and assist those in remote areas quickly, if emergency strikes.
It follows that, in a recent GBTA survey, 44% of business travellers said they now expected their employers to use tools like GPS to locate them in an emergency overseas. And at least two-thirds would expect their company to proactively contact them within two hours of an adverse event abroad.
Customer-centricity is everything
The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) says in its latest report on travel megatrends that “Consumers want to be treated as individuals by companies that share their values.” They also “value technology, but are uncomfortable with over-automation.”
Transfer this to the international health and travel insurance arena, and we see a need for bespoke, joined-up claims and travel risk management solutions that balance technology with the human touch – and that do not (in the words of WTTC) “seek to replace customer interaction with intelligent bots”.
In practice, this can mean offering 24/7 human case managers alongside automated claims. It can mean tailoring pre-travel medical and security risk assessments to specific destinations: preparing individual policyholders for everything from local cultural sensitivities and medical care, to terrorist attacks, hotel burglaries or muggings - before they even set foot on foreign soil.
It can also mean predicting and mitigating real-time threats to individual policyholders’ health and safety, once they are abroad; for example, the risk of illness to family members, adverse weather, or even a political coup.
This is because customer-centricity isn’t just about responding to emergencies abroad, it’s also about planning proactively, and reducing anxiety for the globally mobile. It’s about identifying and mitigating both health and security risks, and helping policyholders feel informed and supported at every stage of an assignment overseas.
About the author
Chris Knight is head of corporate services for claims and assistance provider CEGA Group, a Charles Taylor company. In his senior positions with the British Army and security services industry, Chris underwent numerous tactical deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and specialised in operational planning and intelligence analysis. He also managed medical, security and natural disaster evacuations from complex and challenging environments.
Today, in his role at CEGA, Chris focuses on risk management and assistance for corporate travellers in the context of combined medical and security provision.
For more information, please see: www.intrinsicassistance.com